cbc.com, February 5, 2007
Two prominent Canadian Muslim groups want to file a human rights complaint over immigrant policies recently adopted in a rural Quebec town.
The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) and the Canadian Muslim Forum claim Hérouxville’s new code of conduct for immigrants fuels negative stereotypes of ethnic minorities and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
CIC chair Mohamed Elmasry told CBC that the groups will file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission if Hérouxville does not retract its code.
He said the code is regressive with racist undertones.
“We’re greatly disappointed. The Québécois are famous for their liberal attitude,” he said Monday. “This declaration, although it doesn’t have a legal impact . . . it is against Canadian values, and it is against Article 27 of the Canadian Charter.”
The town’s code, adopted Jan. 25, spells out behaviour “expected” from newcomers who choose to settle in the Mauricie region town outside Trois-Rivières.
Among other rules, it bans kirpans and head scarves except on Halloween, and says women can drive and write cheques but cannot be stoned to death.
Elmasry said he hopes to meet with town officials in the coming days, around “tea and cookies” to talk about “who are the Muslims in their country.”
He’s especially looking forward to speaking with Hérouxville Coun. André Drouin, who spearheaded the code. Elmasry said he’s concerned about Drouin’s attitude and assumptions about Islam and fundamentalism.
“We are qualified, doctors, accountants, we serve in the army, the RCMP, CSIS. He must learn this. . ..”
Drouin should be more understanding of immigrants, given the Québécois’ history of oppression under British rule, Elmasry added.
“He should really read the lesson of his ancestors, and be sympathetic to immigrants who are brown in colour, or who have an accent like myself.”
Muslims also have work to do, to better educate the general public about their beliefs and practices, Elmasry added.
Code splits rural leaders
The immigrant code has created divisions in the Mauricie region, northeast of Montreal. Some nearby towns were quick to endorse the rules, including St-Roch-de-Mékinac, where officials passed a motion Friday supporting Hérouxville’s move.
But the code is making others uncomfortable.
“It’s the biggest stupidity ever committed,” said Jacques Proulx, president of Solidarité rurale du Québec, an organization representing rural municipalities.
The code gives people another excuse to bash small-town Quebec, Proulx told Radio-Canada.
Code creator defends rules on talk show
On Sunday, Drouin appeared on the popular Quebec television talk show Tout le monde en parle to justify his town’s new rules.
Hérouxville isn’t averse to immigrants, it just wants them to understand the “shop rules” before they decide to settle in the town, Drouin told the studio audience.
The debate over reasonable accommodation has reached urgent proportions, and Quebec faces a state of emergency because of its efforts to respect non-Christian religious and cultural beliefs, Drouin said in his interview with host Guy A. Lepage.
He called on Quebec politicians to revisit the debate, and urged Citizenship and Immigration Canada to consider Hérouxville’s code.