Anticipating the Bouchard-Taylor Commission’s upcoming report on the reasonable accommodation hearings, the Accommodate This! coalition of Montreal community, religious, and human rights groups released a counter-report last Thursday night.
Montreal community and religious groups have accused the reasonable accommodation hearings of being racist, sexist, and Islamophobic. Feminist and religious groups also denounced what they described as a paternalistic attitude towards Muslim women.
“The design of the Commission and the language of ‘accommodation’ assumes and perpetuates a system of power whereby Western ‘hosts’ act as gatekeepers for non-western ‘guests,’” according to a statement released on behalf of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, a feminist research college at Concordia.
The counter-report features written contributions from members of marginalized communities that highlight the daily injustices they experience in Montreal.
“People see a threat all of a sudden, a crisis of Quebec identity. So-called controversies that led up to the forum are things that for decades were never a problem,” said Accomodate This! organizer and U3 Cultural Studies student Emilie Connolly.
“It’s like the war on terror fabricated in different terms.”
Organizations like No One Is Illegal and the Immigrant Workers Center of Montreal have also objected to the Commission’s failure to mention indigenous rights, and the power dynamic between native Quebecers and newcomers.
Yet Sylvain Le Clerc, a spokesman for the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, said concerns throughout the province initiated the investigation.
“Quebecers have issues with many articles in the media on incidents that described reasonable accommodation: people against the hijab, people who do not agree with the Supreme Court ruling of the ceremonial knife of the Sikhs,” LeClerc said.
“There was a big fuss in the media, and during the electoral campaign the subject was picked up by the Premier [Jean Charest].”
LeClerc said the Commission supported the idea of public discourse, however controversial it might become.
“The consultation was done in a democratic way. It was a public forum with an open mic,” LeClerc said. “Most comments were in line with a pluralistic society – some comments were misguided…but that was a minority. That’s what happens when you let people speak out.”
The Bouchard-Taylor Commission began late last year with a series of public hearings throughout the province on how to preserve Quebec’s French heritage while “accommodating” minority groups.
Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor asked Quebecers their opinions on a range of topics, from perceptions of feeling “threatened by intercultural harmonization practices” to the place of religion in Quebec society. Their report was originally set to be released this month, but will not be released publicly until May along with a set of recommendations for the provincial government.
The Commission’s last stop was a week-long stay in Montreal’s Palais des Congrès, where four demonstrators were arrested during a 70-person protest organized by No One Is Illegal.
No One Is Illegal is organizing a city-wide protest at 12:30 p.m. on May 4 at the corner of Victoria and Van Horne near metro Plamondon. More information is available from nooneisillegal-montreal.blogspot.com.