Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Quebec Charter of Values

Dan Brown, Status of Women & Equity Committee

It is a bit dismaying how little discussion there has been of the academic freedom implications of the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. Neither the Canadian Association of University Teachers nor the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been willing to go on the record publicly about concerns with the Charter, and inside Quebec, the only university to publicly state its opposition has been McGill, whose new Principal, Suzanne Fortier, did publicly oppose the Charter.

In October, SWEC approved this letter.


The Status of Women and Equity Committee of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo disagrees strongly with the proposed Charter of Québec Values.

These proposals forbid civil servants from wearing "conspicuous" religious symbols, such as hijabs, turbans, and kippot, while allowing for "non-ostentatious" small jewellery. 

"This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec."
This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec.  A pluralistic society will include members who express their personal beliefs by diverse choices of attire, and this diversity does not reduce the religious neutrality of the state.  We reject the claim that leaders of public institutions will proselytize by their choice of dress.

We strongly support the rights of women and equity for all members of society.  The proposed Charter does not enable women's equality, and, by forcing some women to choose between their profession and their religion, violates their freedom of religion and freedom to practice their profession.

Finally, the Charter will reduce the quality of research and education in Québec.  Leaders at universities in Québec are already expressing concern about recruiting excellent faculty if the Charter were to be enacted.  At the University of Waterloo, we know that a diverse faculty is essential to educate our students and spark innovation, and we will regret the unnecessary loss to the research community that will come from silencing so many scholars.

We call on the Québec government to cancel the introduction of this unnecessary and divisive Charter.

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