René Bruemmer, Montreal Gazette, October 30, 2019
“These questions imply immigrants are a threat to women’s rights or the rights of the LQBTQ community, otherwise why would we need to ask these questions,” says Haroun Bouazzi. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
Quebec’s new values test for immigrants will only serve to increase racist attitudes in the province and a sense of bitterness among newcomers, immigrant groups warned Wednesday.
“The main problem is not with the test itself, but with the fact the test is implying that immigrants have a problem when it comes to our values,” said Haroun Bouazzi, co-president of the Association of Muslims and Arabs for Laicity in Quebec.
“And the population will understand what is being implied, and immigrants will be subject to more racism, which is the main problem they face when they come to Canada.”
Sample questions released by the CAQ include multiple-choice answers — a man and a woman; two men; one man and two women — to the question “Who is allowed to marry in Quebec?”
“These questions imply immigrants are a threat to women’s rights or the rights of the LQBTQ community, otherwise why would we need to ask these questions,” Bouazzi said. “We should put up a picture of a woman with a headscarf and a woman without a headscarf and ask the question, ‘Should they be treated equally?’ The answer is yes, but this government doesn’t think so.”
There is no research that shows immigrants are more prone to racism or sexism than the general public, Bouazzi said. Immigrants who do have sexist or racist views will know enough to lie about them on the test, he noted. Instead of a test, the government should be educating all Quebecers on fundamental principles of equality between the sexes and racism, not just immigrants, he said, because the problems exist in all realms of society.
“It’s not immigrants that are the threat. It’s this government.”
Passing the test will be a condition of obtaining a certificate of selection in Quebec, which enables immigrants to apply for permanent residency. Premier François Legault said Wednesday the test was important so “people who want to come to live and work in Quebec know that women are equal to men” and that Quebec has a secularism law barring some public employees from wearing religious symbols.
“It is insulting, it is discriminatory and it is demeaning to be asked the questions that they are asking because it’s implying you are coming from bad countries, or that your education is incomplete,” said Salam El Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal. “In fact, people come to Canada because they’re seeking freedoms that are in our constitution, and here you say we have hierarchies of rights and we want to make sure you are adopting Quebec values. … When you look at the Quebec Charter of Rights, one of the first in Canada, those questions (in the test) might be contrary to freedom of conscience, contrary to freedom of religion that are enshrined there.”
El Menyawi accused the government of trying to “divide society into their own image, the image of the few,” and warned that forcing desperate individuals to answer in the way the government wants will cause them to feel “always the bitterness of having to respond in a way contrary to their conscience, in a country that claims freedom of conscience is a right.”
Quebec’s test is nothing like the Canadian citizenship test, which focuses on laws and geography, El Menywawi said.
Ultimately, the CAQ’s values test is a politically motivated infringement on minority rights, said Samir Laouni, a member of a non-profit group that promotes intercultural dialogue known as Communication pour l’ouverture et le rapprochement interculturel.
“Is this the most urgent thing in Quebec? Is it not things like the flooding in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac that is still not resolved? Is it really the test of values, or are we once again bringing out the theme of ethnocentric identity in Quebec to keep the honeymoon period of the CAQ government alive? That’s the question I ask.
“It’s a political act, and it belongs to them, and they will have to answer for it, one day.”