The real problem isn’t the niqab

Par Éric Duhaime,

Article publié dans le National Post le vendredi 26 mars 2010,

The debate about reasonable accommodation is dominating headlines in Quebec. Three years after the first sparks, the flame keeps being fed.

The latest crisis started three weeks ago, when it was revealed that a student of Egyptian origin in a French-immersion class, Naema Ahmed, refused to take off her niqab and was kicked out of school. In response, on Wednesday, the Liberal government introduced Bill 94 in front of the National Assembly, requiring all public employees, and all those who deal with them, to uncover their face.

It’s not an accident that there is more cultural friction in Quebec involving the Muslim-Arabic community than elsewhere in Canada. Because of Quebec’s immigration policies, French-speaking migrants are more likely to be selected. (Moroccans, Algerians, Lebanese and Tunisians often speak better French than we do in Quebec.)

Close to half of our new immigrants to Quebec are now  Two of the first three countries from which we select newcomers are Algeria and Morocco. The other country in the top three is France (and even in that case, many of the immigrants consist of North Africans in transit).

Once they get here, the unemployment rate for these immigrants is high — close to 30%. Last year, researchers followed new immigrants from Morocco and Algeria who were looking for jobs and drew the conclusion that the main obstacles for them were, in order: (1) recognition of their professional credentials, (2) the poor quality of their English (more than 90% of these people live in the Greater Montreal region), and (3) discrimination against Arabs.

It would be easier to commend the Quebec government on its niqab/burka ban if it also presented a plan to better integrate the people coming from Muslim parts of the world, and if the selection process were more coherent.

The timing is also somewhat suspect. At a time when Jean Charest’s credibility is being tested — with his former Minister of Justice Marc Bellemare publicly calling him a liar and asking for a public inquiry to investigate the links between Liberal funding and corruption in the construction industry — Bill 94 smells more like a diversion tactic than anything else.

Also remember that Quebecers found out this week that the Education Minister has been lying to them since February, when she allowed schools to open on weekends and certain holidays, claiming the move had “nothing to do with religion.” On Wednesday, the Canadian Press got access to correspondence between the minister and six rogue Jewish schools that confirms she passed her amendment to please the religious school lobby: another unreasonable accommodation for a majority of Quebecers.

So let’s not get too excited about the latest Liberal initiative. Liberals can lie but they cannot hide behind a veil anymore. Our immigration policies need a fix that will guarantee us that we select immigrants based on their ability to work and contribute to our economy.

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3 réflexions sur “The real problem isn’t the niqab

  1. C’est encore un bon texte. J’ai aussi lu les commentaires, hum, disons qu’on mange une maudite volé avec nos politiques d’immigration. Il y en a un qui nous compare avec Paris et Marseille. Moi je n’ai pas vu la beauté de ces villes à Montréal malheureusement. Mais leurs côtés les plus laids, on commence à les constatés de jour en jour petit à petit. Mais nous sommes moins fermés que les français face aux arabes, y pas eu de guerre entre nous et nous n’avons pas colonisé leurs pays nous. Donc, on pourra éviter, je crois, les ghettos. Mais on doit être très ferme.

  2. Encore une fois une analyse juste et substantiel comme l’ensemble de vos chroniques et analyses. Je suis d’autant plus ravis du fait que vous rayonnez hors Quebec. Visitant des industries quotidiennement, la main-d’oeuvre magrébaine s’investit beaucoup dans son travail. Evidemment, je rencontre presqu’exclusivement des gens de croyances très modéré. Ceux-ci peuvent contribuer largement a l’essor du Québec. Il se retrouve donc confronté au meme défi que les québécois des années 70; le bilinguisme. Parlez-en aux québécois d’origine italienne.

  3. Bel effort de spiner négativement un bon coup du gouvernement Charest. Vous êtes d’accord avec le projet de loi en lui-même, dites-le, ça fait pas mal.

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