The Communist Party of Canada, with a proud century-long tradition of fighting for democratic rights and the right to employment, denounces the dismissal of a teacher in Chelsea, Outaouais, Quebec, for wearing a headscarf under Bill 21. Nevertheless, we condemn with equal firmness the outpouring of editorials, commentaries, articles and political posturing directed against Quebec in the rest of Canada.
As Communists, we are firmly opposed to Bill 21. The Communist Party of Quebec recalled, at the time of its unveiling in 2019, that the purpose of this law has nothing to do with secularism, whose basic principle is the recognition of the neutrality of the State with regard to all religions, but rather with the discrimination not only of Muslims, but of Muslim women who are public servants. Its aim has always been and remains an attack on female employees, as the example of the Chelsea teacher shows.
We recall that the government that implemented it was elected by less than 25% of the population. This government, which boasts about “Quebec values” to justify this shameful exclusion of certain targeted people from the workforce, seeks to reduce Quebec values to conservative values. Behind this mask of defense of Quebec, its goal is to undermine the fighting spirit of the unions and to anaesthetize the popular struggles by setting the opposition “Pure Laine” against the immigrant population.
Meanwhile, the bosses wash their hands of the situation. Legault and the CAQ continue to impose their anti-social and anti-people policies. They forget the fact that fundamentally, it is the workers who are opposed to the employers and that class unity must take precedence over any other division. This is exactly what Bill 21 tries to hide.
However, we are opposed to those in the rest of Canada who claim to defend the victims of Bill 21 who portray Quebec as a fundamentally racist society. Racism is in no way particular to Quebec. It is as much a part of Quebec as it is of any capitalist society in crisis, including the rest of Canada.
Suddenly, the most reactionary and chauvinistic of commentators, whether they be from the Globe and Mail, The Gazette or the National Post, are defending visible minorities. What hypocrisy! The same people who called for voting for Harper when the Conservatives had the wind in their sails are now defending democratic rights. Let’s remember that in 2015, it was the Harper Conservatives who made racism their hobbyhorse, notably with the S-7 law against “barbaric cultural practices”. They are also the ones who reopened the debate on identity politics in 2015 with their demand that Muslim women be required to remove their headscarves.
Today, the Conservative mayors of Brampton, Toronto and Winnipeg are vowing to provide $100,000 to fund a court challenge to Bill 21. They are being followed in their hypocrisy by the “progressive” mayor of Calgary. The real purpose of such a fundamentally chauvinistic manoeuvre has nothing to do with defending the democratic rights of those discriminated against by Bill 21, but rather to attack Quebec and discredit its people’s cherished right to equality and national sovereignty.
The core of the problem with Bill 21 is the fact that the right to self-determination up to and including the separation of Quebec is denied by the current Canadian Constitution. As long as this is the case, as long as progressive forces in the rest of Canada do not take up this fight and show their determination to defend this inalienable right of the Quebec nation to self- determination, François Legault and the narrow nationalist forces in Quebec will have every opportunity to fool the population into believing that such reactionary measures are necessary to defend the nation from the danger of assimilation by English-speaking Canada.
Indeed, many Quebecers, including some progressives, support Bill 21 not out of racist feelings, but rather out of their attachment to the French language and Quebec culture, which they perceive to be in danger. To them, we must reach out and remind them that the real threat is not from migrants or Muslims – many of whom are French-speaking and integrate into the Quebec nation quite naturally – but rather from capitalist globalization and the monopolistic domination of the country that prevents discussion of a new constitution that guarantees a truly democratic solution to the national question. To them, we must prove that it is only through the unity of the working class in all its diversity (ethnic, national, etc.) that we will be able to both guarantee the right to self-determination of all nations in Canada and defend the rights of migrants.
This is how we will triumph over racism and all forms of discrimination, as well as the oppression of the Quebec, Acadian, Indigenous and Métis nations and national minorities, not only in Quebec, but in all of Canada.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada