Robert Libman: In the new year, let’s stand up for minority rights

We seem to be heading for another “annus horribilis,” as Queen Elizabeth would say, but there are ways to make things brighter.

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The holidays are supposed to be a happy time with family and friends, filled with a spirit of generosity and hope about what the new year will bring.

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Even without considering COVID, 2021 has been a very unpleasant year for Quebec’s minority communities, having been marginalized by all three levels of government. . The federal election campaign was particularly daunting in the way all parties blatantly competed for the affection of Quebec Prime Minister François Legault, abandoning minority concerns and refusing to defend basic human rights and freedoms. His evasion of Quebec’s religious symbols legislation, Bill 21 and Language Bill 96, which proactively invoke the notwithstanding clause to protect themselves from Quebec and federal bills of rights, was a betrayal. The municipal election campaign also antagonized Anglophones, with a candidate controversially ruled out by Denis Coderre over an issue related to Bill 96, and Valérie Plante announced her full support for the bill.

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With COVID still raging despite vaccines, with the final debate and passage of Bill 96 in the National Assembly before the summer and Quebec’s provincial elections looming in October, it looks like we are headed for another “annus. horribilis “, as Queen Elizabeth would say. .

So what can be done amidst all these dark clouds to improve the situation and foster positive change?

Perhaps it is time to stop waiting for politicians and instead take matters into our own hands. Maybe it’s finally time to get down to business and borrow the phrase from the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” That is what minority communities may need to do, be inspired to influence their own destiny and strengthen their spirits with solidarity and common cause.

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In a show of defiance to Bill 21, a campaign could be organized in which as many Quebec teachers as possible wear the hijab and kippah in solidarity, even if it is for a limited time to make a statement. Teachers who have held their current positions since before the law was introduced are exempt. So such an act of defiance appears to be legal and could illustrate that the people who teach our children do not teach them differently based on what they are using. Most likely it will generate some international attention and shame our leaders into taking action. Federal leaders, after witnessing the human impact of the law with the recent reassignment of a third grade teacher near Gatineau, are finally making some coy noises now that the election has passed, but that’s not enough.

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As for Bill 96, its widespread support by all parties in the National Assembly has provoked discussions and machinations about grassroots political action. There are movements going on and there is a lot of talk specifically about creating a political party centered on the island of Montreal, like the concept of the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa – a party in the National Assembly to defend the metropolis, a party sensitive to the concerns of its richly diverse population and embracing bilingualism as Quebec’s economic engine. Montreal is as different within Quebec as Quebec is within Canada. The current level of frustration and alienation could help fuel such a vehicle and at least provide an alternative voice in the seemingly one-sided debate as we approach the provincial elections.

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Minority communities cannot expect any generosity from politicians next year. The only hope for positive change is to stand firm, participating in movements or initiatives to challenge unjust laws.

Channeling our energy and uniting people around a common cause at least provides something valuable and constructive to look forward to in the new year.

Robert Libman is an architect and building planning consultant who has served as leader of the Equality Party and MNA, as mayor of Côte-St-Luc, and as a member of the Montreal executive committee. He was a conservative candidate in the 2015 federal elections. twitter.com/robertlibman

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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