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  1. Interesting article: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/09/09/can-quebecs-church-based-curse-words-survive-in-a-secular-age/
  2. Time for Quebecers to be more open: report Shake off angst. Get used to living in globalized society, Bouchard-Taylor report urges JEFF HEINRICH The Gazette Saturday, May 17, 2008 Learn more English, be nicer to Muslims, get better informed. Those are just some of the ways the unhappy French-Canadian majority in Quebec can shake off its angst about minorities and help build a truly open society in a globalized world, say the authors of a much-anticipated report for the Liberal government on the "reasonable accommodation" of minorities. In several chapters of the final draft obtained by The Gazette, Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor argue the "discontent of a large part of the population" over demands by Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities "seems to us the result of partial information and false perceptions." The chairpersons of the $5-million commission address a number of what they call "unfounded objections" to the role of religion in Quebec society, mostly voiced by old-stock francophones during three months of highly publicized hearings last fall. Rebutting those objections, Bouchard, a prominent Chicoutimi sociologist and historian, and Taylor, a world-renowned Montreal philosopher, lay out their vision of a new Quebec coming to terms with kirpans, hijabs, kosher food and other expressions of non-Christian cultures. In Quebec, they say, everyone should feel welcome and the majority should no longer feel under threat by newcomers. "We think it is possible to re-concile Quebecers - franco-phones and others - with practices of harmonization, once it has been shown that: a) these practices respect our society's fundamental values, notably the equality of men and women. b) they don't aim to create privileges but, rather, equality that is well understood and that respects everyone's rights. c) they encourage integration and not marginalization. d) they're framed by guidelines and protected against spiralling out of control. e) they're founded on the principle of reciprocity. f) they don't play the game of fundamentalism. g) they don't compromise the gains of the Quiet Revolution." The final draft is dated March 19, two weeks before the commission announced on its website that the writing of the report was finished and that, after adding a series of recommendations, proofreading the document and translating it into English, it would be sent to the printers. The official report is now in the hands of Premier Jean Charest, who is to present it to cabinet on Wednesday. After a budget-style "lock-up" behind closed doors for journalists Friday morning, the commissioners will hold a news conference to discuss their findings. Broken down into half-a-dozen parts, the voluminous report has more than a dozen chapters and almost as many annexes consisting of a series of research reports, independently produced under special order by the commission. Their subjects relate to the accommodation debate, including media coverage, ethnic ghettos and French-language training for immigrants. In their report, Bouchard and Taylor - but mainly Bouchard, who did the bulk of the writing, insiders say- argue that the responsibility for open-mindedness and desire for change lie mainly with one people: the French Canadians themselves. "It's principally from this milieu that the crisis arose," the commissioners write, adding that many French Canadians "have a strong feeling of insecurity for the survival of their culture." They fear losing their "values, language, tradition and customs" and of eventually "disappearing" entirely as a French-speaking minority in North America. Self-doubt and "the fear of the Other" - are "the two great hindrances from the French-Canadian past," the commissioners write. "In the past, the threat came mainly from the anglophone. Before that, it was the lifestyle brought on by industrialization. Today, for many, it's the immigrant." What Quebec now faces is not the traditional "deux solitudes" of French and English, but rather "deux inquiètudes" - the twin anxieties of the majority and the new minorities, the commissioners say. The "members of a strong ethnocultural majority fear being submerged by minorities who themselves are fragile and worried about the future, especially immigrants trying to find their feet in their adoptive society," write the scholars, who in footnotes liberally quote from oral testimony as well as written briefs presented at the hearings last fall. Bouchard and Taylor also compare Quebec's immigration situation with that of other provinces, noting that Quebec has far fewer immigrants (11.5 per cent per capita, compared with 28 per cent in Ontario and British Columbia, and 16 per cent in Alberta) and far fewer ethnocultural minorities generally (21 per cent in metropolitan Montreal vs. 46 per cent in Toronto and 40 per cent in Vancouver). Quebec's accommodation crisis dates to March 2006, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of a Montreal Sikh teenager who wanted to keep wearing his kirpan, the traditional ceremonial dagger of baptized orthodox Sikh men, to school. A series of media-fuelled controversies over demands for accommodation by religious minorities followed. For example: The Association of Maritime Employers agreed to re-examine its workplace rules after orthodox Sikh truck drivers objected to wearing safety helmets instead of their turbans at the Port of Montreal. A Montreal YMCA frosted the windows of an exercise room so that ultraorthodox Jewish neighbours wouldn't have to watch women exercising. And Montreal policewomen were advised in a training brochure to let their male colleagues take charge when visiting Hasidic neighborhoods. The "scandals" came to a head in January 2007 with the publication of a "code of life" by the village council of Hérouxville in the Mauricie region, in which foreigners were advised that public stonings and female circumcision were not allowed in the community. Faced with the polemic over that declaration and fearing unrest over immigrants and religious minorities on the eve of a provincial election campaign, Charest quickly announced the formation of a special commission to look into accommodations and defuse the crisis: the Bouchard-Taylor commission. In their report, the commissioners say that in hindsight the accommodation crisis was largely a media phenomenon - but, they add, it was no invention. "The media didn't create the crisis over accommodations, but their message fell on fertile ground." Elsewhere, they call on the media to show more "self-discipline" and rigour in reporting on ethnic communities and their representatives, some of whom - like deported Tunisian imam Saïd Jaziri - got wide coverage despite having little or no credibility. Although "what has happened in Quebec sometimes gives the impression of being a showdown between two groups of minorities (French Canadians and the ethnic minorities), each of whom wants the other to accommodate it," there are many ways to avoid a fatal confrontation, the commissioners say. People should get used to the idea that "Quebec is made up of diverse ethnic groups, each of which, as is its right and in its own way, cultivates its own memory" - in other words, none is more valuable than the other. The two commissioners - who each collected a salary of $380,000 for their work - also: Declare themselves in favour of more funding for community groups that try to bring cultures together. Argue against race-based projects that segregate people from mainstream society (such as a proposed all-black school). Lament the "wasted careers" of foreign professionals who can't find work here because their credentials aren't recognized. Deplore that only three per cent of Quebec public-service jobs are held by immigrants, "one of the worst situations in North America." Blame the Quebec media for being generally "very 'old-stock,' very 'white' (and) by consequence, they broadcast an often biased image of a (multicultural) reality that a lot of people don't know well enough." But Bouchard and Taylor also - surprisingly - come to the defence of Hérouxville, which made headlines around the world. "In a very awkward and excessive way, the Hérouxville text expressed a tension, an ambivalence many French-Canadian Quebecers have," the commissioners write. Finally, they make a plea for better understanding of Quebec's Muslims, "who only make up two per cent of the Quebec population, about 130,000 people," who are "massively francophone and highly educated," who are "among the least devoutly religious of all immigrants," and who are "the least ghettoized" geographically in Montreal. "The way to overcome Islamophobia is to get closer to Muslims, not to run away from them," the commissioners state. "Mistrust breeds mistrust. Just like fear, it winds up feeding on itself." [email protected] thegazette.canwest.com SOUNDOFF! How has reasonable accommodation affected your life? What do you think of the Bouchard-Taylor findings? Do they go far enough in addressing concerns about the state of minorities in Quebec? What other issues do you think should have been addressed? Share your views and catch up on stories and testimonials from the hearings at montrealgazette.com © The Gazette (Montreal) 2008
  3. via the New Yorker : FEBRUARY 28, 2015 Leonard Cohen’s Montreal BY BERNARD AVISHAI PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB VERHORST/REDFERNS VIA GETTY Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—a hymn to souls too carnal to grow old, too secular to give praise, and too baffled to mock faith—recently turned thirty. Cohen himself, now eighty, came of age in Jewish Montreal during the twenty years after the Second World War, and those of us who followed him, a half-generation later, can’t hear the song without also thinking about that time and place, which qualifies as an era. The devotional—and deftly sacrilegious—quality of “Hallelujah” and other songs and poems by Cohen reflects a city of clashing and bonding religious communities, especially first-generation Jews and French Catholics. Montreal’s politics in the early sixties were energized by what came to be called Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, which emancipated the city’s bicultural intelligentsia from Church and Anglostocracy. The pace of transformation could make the place half crazy; that’s why you wanted to be there. Religious thoughts seemed to be the gravest ones in Montreal then, insinuated, even inculcated, by its architecture, seasonal festivals, and colloquialisms. Cohen grew up in affluent Westmount, the best part of Mount Royal, about a mile from my family home in Snowdon—a neighborhood on a lower Western slope, where “the English” (as my mother called them) had no choice but to make room for Jewish factory owners, lawyers, and doctors. Towering over both our neighborhoods, impressing itself on our senses, was the dome of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Quebec’s great basilica, the dream palace of (the now canonized) Brother André Bessette, who healed the body and spirit of pilgrims—the place we simply called the Shrine. A. M. Klein, the first of the Montreal Jewish poets, wrote, “How rich, how plumped with blessing is that dome! / The gourd of Brother André! His sweet days / rounded! Fulfilled! Honeyed to honeycomb!” Its neon-illuminated cross was visible from my bedroom window, an imposing rival for the whispered Shma Yisroel of bedtime. The city’s ironwork staircases, its streets tangled around Mount Royal, carried the names of uncountable saints (St. Denis, St. Eustache, St. Laurent); the fall air was scented by rotting leaves and, on Rosh Hashana, polished synagogues. Fresh snow sharpened Christmas lights. Our curses, borrowed from Québécois proles, were affectionately sacrilegious mocks of the Mass: “calice,” “tabarnak,” “osti”—chalice, tabernacle, host. For Jews, a sense of rivalry was palpable, triangular, and almost Old Country in character. French public schools were run by the Catholic Church, English schools by the Protestant School Board, and some fifty per cent of Jewish students went to Anglo-Jewish day schools that embraced (and effaced) Old World movements: Orthodox, Zionist, folkish Yiddishist. Montreal’s Jews numbered well over a hundred and twenty thousand in those years. A great many men and women behind the counters of our bakeries, delis, and bookstores spoke (as did my father) the Yiddish-inflected English of immigrants who had come in the twenties. The Soviet revolution had changed the boundaries of Russia’s borderlands, closing Russian markets that had previously been open to Jewish merchants and textile manufacturers in Lithuania and White Russia (now Eastern Belarus), forcing them West—just when the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 closed America to more Jewish immigration. My father and his widowed mother and siblings were trying, in 1928, to get from Bialystok to Chicago, where an uncle lived. The port of Montreal was supposed to be their starting point, before heading down to the Great Lakes. It was where they stayed. (If the accents were heavier, you knew the new arrivals had come mainly from Romania or Hungary after the Nazi defeat, and had witnessed horrors that we did not speak about.) Jewish community life after the war was imbued with a sense of intensely felt tragedy, but so was traditional Judaism as a culture. The world of Yiddishkeit, three generations back for New York intellectuals, was just one generation back for us. Compared with “Dick and Jane” in our English readers, the characters of the Hebrew bible—their violence, jealousies, and treacheries—seemed like family. On a streetcar ride up Queen Mary Road, where the Shrine stood, a nun once told me that I had “the look of Abraham” on my face. Another, apparently reading my mind, asked me if I knew what it meant to have sinful thoughts. (She also kindly shared an amusing word game, so her Inquisition ended with grace.) The largest English talk-radio station had a call-in show on Sunday evenings on which the vexingly courteous Pentecostal Pastor Johnson explained why Jews, in rejecting Jesus, were sadly damned. Most of his callers were Jews who debated and denounced him. Unlike in the United States, Jews in Quebec did not have a neutral civil space to melt into. We had nothing as stipulated as the American Constitution; our liberties derived organically, within the tradition of British Common Law. Canada’s money had a Queen on it, not the founding fathers. The institutions of Jewish Montreal created places in which we fell back on ourselves. The heads of our welfare services and of the Y.M.H.A., the public library, the free-loan society, and political congresses were local celebrities. The family of the liquor baron Sam Bronfman, who supported these institutions, were our nobility. The progressives among us didn’t go to Reform synagogues; we just went to Orthodox and Conservative synagogues, and irregularly. If we got sick, we went to the Jewish General Hospital. My father, a Zionist leader who travelled to Israel in 1954 as if on the hajj, often admonished me with the famous aphorism of Moses Mendelssohn, the eighteenth-century liberal philosopher, that I should be a Jew at home and a human in the street. I understood Mendelssohn more readily than, say, Leonard Bernstein, who, teaching us sonata form on television, seemed human pretty much everywhere. Tolerance meant dialogue and reciprocal recognition, not assimilation. A few years ago, I walked through Bialystok with a historical map of the now destroyed Jewish city—before the First World War, Jews comprised about half the population—and found my father’s house. I was struck by how familiar Montreal’s large immigrant Jewish neighborhoods might have seemed, at least on the surface, to my father in 1928, when he arrived at the age of fourteen: the same hard winter and the same thick-walled constructions, the same forested hills, the same churches, the same easy insular Yiddish dominating commerce in textiles and clothing—the shmate (“rag”) business. The same farmers who had, a couple of generations back, been peasants, speaking a strange national language, working in our factories, speaking against us from hearths and pulpits yet greeting us warmly and with a practiced humility. The same sense that, by contrast, the propertied classes, our local nobility, would tolerate Jews so long as we helped them get richer but did not cross some invisible boundary—the presumably unavailable daughters. In his iconic Canadian novel, “Two Solitudes,” Hugh MacLennan describes Quebec as being defined by two competing cultures, nested in two little nations that were also classes, French and English. The gruff, brilliant, promiscuous Irving Layton—who had been an acolyte of Klein, and who became Cohen’s mentor and advocate—observed many years later that Montreal actually had three solitudes—a Jewish one, too, sitting somewhere between the others. Commercial life was English, so Jews as a community were drawn to the Anglophone world, narrow only in Quebec. Yet immigrant Jews engaged more poignantly, pushing and pulling, with French religious culture, which was locally engulfing. Catholic priests and nuns were ubiquitous public servants, tending to the French population, largely subsidized by provincial taxes and dominating Quebec’s French universities, hospitals, and social agencies, as well as the public schools. Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, installed in 1953, was a kindly man, concerned for the poor, who ended his days as an African missionary (“a mensch,” my father called him), and the equal of any mayor; he kept anyone under sixteen from entering a movie theatre, except when Walt Disney films made the rounds. In the thirties and forties, the Church in Quebec had been ultramontane, and the not silent partner of the reactionary National Union Party of Premier Maurice Duplessis, who ruled, with a five year interruption, from 1936 until his death, in 1959. He had been xenophobic, populist, ambivalent about the war against Hitler, and classically (if discreetly) anti-Semitic. Behind the scenes, this political establishment instructed French voters, many of whom lived in far-flung farming villages where parish schooling was limited. They were barely literate and easily swayed. Duplessis presided over an apparently impregnable majority, rallied against sinful Montreal—Cardinal Léger sought to ban bingo—and used the provincial police thuggishly, turning it into a personal force. But the war and its aftermath gradually put the Catholic Church on the defensive. The exposure of Québécois soldiers to the triumph over Fascism, the penetration into the countryside of radio and television, the inescapable guilt that Catholic intellectuals felt about the death camps, the Second Vatican Council in 1962—all of these unleashed dissent. The Church’s chief critics were dazzling, cosmopolitan French Canadian intellectuals: Jean Marchand, the charismatic, leftist union leader; Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the editors of Cité Libre magazine (Trudeau would eventually lead the federal Liberals to victory in 1968); and René Lévesque, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s most famous French-language host. When, in the 1960* election, the Liberal Party came to power (Lévesque joined the Liberal’s cabinet as the resources minister), the priests and nuns began losing their grip on the city’s schools and social services, and Quebec entered the humanist insurgency of the Quiet Revolution. The arts began to flourish: the Comédie-Canadienne blossomed, and the filmmaker Denys Arcand joined the National Film Board, producing award-winning French-language documentaries. The University of Montreal and community colleges were infused with provincial funds, and their graduates took social-service jobs in a new, fiercely secular Quebec bureaucracy. Public schools, still divided by language, were taken over more firmly, and funded more lavishly, by the regional government (though the formally “confessional” nomenclature—Catholic and Protestant—was not finally abandoned until 1998). By the spring of 1963, the Quebec government had nationalized old English-owned power companies, disturbing the peace of the residual Anglostocracy. In this loosened political atmosphere, Jews—who voted “Liberal” as faithfully as we conducted Seders—emerged into the culture. We grew infatuated with Trudeau’s federalist idealism. He was elected from a largely Jewish Montreal constituency and remained there throughout his years as Prime Minister. The Quiet Revolution transformed Montreal, at least for a while, into a kind of Andalusia: contesting religious-linguistic cultures rubbing each other the right way. Jews shared professional and literary ties with les Anglais, but we shared an affinity with French Catholics, for religious traditions that were thickly esthetic and that we, each in our own way, both loved and loved to distance ourselves from. We also intuitively understood congregational routine, authoritative interpretation of sacred literature, the prestige of historical continuity—we understood that messiahs matter in this world, that the divine emerged within the precincts of a discipline, commandments, and the mass, all of which produced decorum before they produced grace. As Cohen writes in “Hallelujah,” you cannot feel so you learn to touch: works, not just faith alone. Our rivalry with Catholics at times seemed fuelled by an unacknowledged tenderness, theirs for our historical struggles, professional erudition, and exegetical trenchancy, ours for their majestic spaces, genuflecting hockey champions, and forgiving, suffering servant—a Jew, after all. “I love Jesus,” Cohen told his biographer, Sylvie Simmons. “Always did.” But, he said, “I didn’t stand up in shul and say, ‘I love Jesus.’ ” My mother—the amiably innocent scion of another Bialystoker family—took me, overdressed (oisgeputzt), to Eaton’s department store to see the Christmas pageantry; and then, more reverentially (and to my father’s dismay), she took me to the Shrine’s wax museum, to see depictions of the passions of the saints. When I first heard a recording of Judy Collins’s iconic rendition of Cohen’s “Suzanne,” at McGill in the fall of 1967, a year after my mother’s sudden death—heard about the lonely wooden tower and its occupant searching out the drowning—it occurred to me that I had never expected much empathy from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It also occurred to me that Cohen, whose father had died when he was nine, knew loss, and that the distance from mama’s boy to ladies’ man could be short. Which brings me, finally, to McGill. If our emancipation was not in civil society, it was on that campus. The university had been chartered in 1821 to provide English and Scottish Protestants a colonial piece of the Enlightenment, above the atavism of habitant manors and parishes; the student population at the Arts and Sciences Faculty, in the mid-sixties, was something like forty-per-cent Jewish. Cohen was a legend by the time I got there. He had graduated in 1955, and had published three books of poetry and two novels; the National Film Board had made a fawning documentary about him. It was at McGill that Cohen found Irving Layton (he said of Layton, “I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever”). Klein, Layton’s teacher, had been there in the thirties, studied law, and went on to simultaneously write “The Rocking Chair,” a poetic tribute to French Canada, and edit The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. (Secretly, he also wrote speeches for Sam Bronfman). By the time Cohen got to McGill, Klein had fallen silent, spiralling into, among other sources of melancholy, a never-completed exegesis of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” For our part, we found at McGill a kind of finishing school to make ourselves more sovereign, like Cohen was. There was no need for young Jews to offer Quebec some new model of political insurrection—no American-style howl. The restrained, verbose liberalism of John Stuart Mill seemed insurgent enough, even for Trudeau and Levesque. So was the tolerance—the scientific doubt—of the Scottish enlightenment and the lyricism of English and Irish poets, from Wordsworth to Yeats. Hemmed in by Jewish and Catholic sexual norms—and also by Victorian prissiness—the first right that we thought to exercise was the right to Eros. Cohen told Sylvie Simmons that he was first inspired to write poetry when, in his teens, he read, in English translation, the work of the Spaniard Federico García Lorca. But, like many other Jewish youths at McGill, he shuttled between the debating union and the traditions of the English, immersing himself in the study of liberty and literature as in a yeshiva. This open-spirited time of cross-fertilization did not last. The Quiet Revolution, which prompted Trudeau’s federalism, in time gave rise to a more stridently nationalist idea, encouraged by Charles de Gaulle on his trip to the 1967 World’s Fair, and soon championed by Lévesque, too: that Quebec would be better off as an independent country, maîtres chez nous (masters of our own). Spooked by the vitality of English culture in Montreal, and by the fact that many more French were learning English than the other way around, separatists began agitating for an end to English-language education for new immigrants and English signs in the city. Socialists among the separatists, recalling Lévesque’s nationalization of the power companies, began calling for the nationalization of banks and large businesses. At the beginning of the sixties, radical separatists—impatient with the Liberals’ nonviolent democratic methods—had formed the Front de Libération du Québec, or F.L.Q., and gone underground. By the end of the sixties, they had placed bombs in the stock exchange and in mailboxes in English neighborhoods. In 1970, after a spate of F.L.Q. kidnappings (a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, was murdered), Trudeau imposed martial law. The city was roiled by arrests; a friend at McGill known for his New Left sympathies saw his flat raided; the police confiscated books, including, he laughed nervously, one entitled “Cubism”. Lévesque despised the violence of the underground, but was undeterred in his commitment to pursue national sovereignty democratically, ultimately through a referendum. In 1968, he had founded Le Parti Québécois. Jews, like most English-speaking residents of Quebec, were shocked when Lévesque was unexpectedly elected Premier in 1976. This proved the cue. Tens of thousands moved to Toronto. Some Jewish intellectuals, professionals, and artists stayed, but most left, and the amity of the sixties dimmed. Cohen kept a house in Montreal, but as his fame as a songwriter grew he spent little time there. Nevertheless, something of his native Montreal could not be shaken off—the short, sweet tradition of which Cohen was, in a sense, the end. In his 1978 poem “The Death of a Ladies’ Man,” Cohen writes of a lover’s “high religious mood” brought low by the dangers of desire: “She beckoned to the sentry / of his high religious mood. / She said, ‘I’ll make a space between my legs, / I’ll teach you solitude.’ ” You hear the resonances of Cohen’s own religious mood, and Montreal’s, in the lyrics of many songs—“Sisters of Mercy,” “Story of Isaac,” “Who by Fire,” “If It Be Your Will”—culminating, perhaps, with “Hallelujah.” The resonances and the losses are even clearer, I think, when you go to the start of the tradition—roughly, Klein to Layton to Cohen—rather than hear only its end. Klein’s 1947 poem “The Cripples,” about French Catholic worshippers at St. Joseph’s Oratory, which I quoted from earlier, reaches this climax: They know, they know, that suddenly their cares and orthopedics will fall from them, and they stand whole again. Roll empty away, wheelchairs, and crutches, without armpits, hop away! And I who in my own faith once had faith like this, but have not now, am crippled more than they. There you have it: a freethinking Montreal Jew, in whose bones the Torah was bred, inventing precise English lines to express envy for French Catholic piety. “Anything beautiful is not your own,” Cohen told a Jewish student newspaper in 1966. “When I write, I place myself in contact with something much more glorious than anything I can pull up from within myself.” Poetry was unlocked by reverence. But reverence might, ironically, embolden the poet to cross boundaries, to perhaps court one of those beautiful Westmount girls. And if you did, if you touched the dew on her hem, you could throw your crutches away. *Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified the election year that the Liberal Party came to power.
  4. More Quebecers see immigrants as threat: poll By Marian Scott, The GazetteMay 22, 2009 6:59 Protesters demonstrate outside Palais des congrès during the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation in November 2007. Protesters demonstrate outside Palais des congrès during the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation in November 2007. Photograph by: John Kenney, Gazette file photo One year after a provincial report on the accommodation of cultural minorities, a majority of Quebecers still say newcomers should give up their cultural traditions and become more like everybody else, according to a new poll. Quebecers’ attitudes toward immigrants have hardened slightly since 2007, when the Bouchard-Taylor commission started hearings across Quebec on the “reasonable accommodation” of cultural communities. The survey by Léger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies found that 40 per cent of francophones view non-Christian immigrants as a threat to Quebec society, compared with 32 per cent in 2007. Thirty-two per cent of non-francophones said non-Christian immigrants threaten Quebec society, compared with 34 per cent in 2007. “If you look at opinions at the start of the Bouchard-Taylor commission and 18 months later, basically, they haven’t changed,” said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the non-profit research institute. “If the hearings were designed to change attitudes, that has not occurred,” he added. Headed by sociologist Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, the $3.7-million commission held hearings across Quebec on how far society should go to accommodate religious and cultural minorities. It received 900 briefs and heard from 3,423 participants in 22 regional forums. Its report, made public one year ago Friday, made 37 recommendations, including abolishing prayers at municipal council meetings; increasing funding for community organizations that work with immigrants and initiatives to promote tolerance; providing language interpreters in health care; encouraging employers to allow time off for religious holidays; studying how to hire more minorities in the public service; and attracting immigrants to remote regions. Rachad Antonius, a professor of sociology at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said it’s no surprise the commission failed to change Quebecers’ attitudes toward minorities. “Focusing on cultural differences is the wrong approach,” Antonius said. Cultural communities need to achieve economic equality by having access to education, social services and job opportunities, he said. “If there is greater economic integration, that is what is going to change things,” he said. The poll reveals persistent differences between younger and older Quebecers and between francophones and non-francophones on cultural and religious diversity. For example, 56 per cent of respondents age 18 to 24 said Muslim girls should be allowed to wear hijabs in public schools, while only 30 per cent of those 55 and over approved of head scarves in school. Sixty-three per cent of non-francophones said head scarves should be permitted in school compared with 32 per cent of French-speaking respondents. Only 25 per cent of francophones said Quebec society should try harder to accept minority groups’ customs and traditions while 74 per cent of non-francophones said it should make more of an effort to do so. The poll also found Quebecers split on an ethics and religion course introduced last year in schools across the province. A coalition of parents and Loyola High School, a private Catholic institution, are challenging the nondenominational course, which they say infringes parents’ rights to instill religious values in their children. Half of francophones said the course was a good thing while 78 per cent of non-francophones gave it a thumbs up. When asked their opinion of different religious groups, 88 per cent of French-speakers viewed Catholics favourably, 60 per cent viewed Jews favourably – down 12 percentage points from 2007 – and 40 per cent had a favourable opinion of Muslims (compared with 57 per cent in 2007). Among non-francophones, 92 per cent viewed Catholics with favour, 77 per cent had a positive opinion of Jews and 65 a good opinion of Muslims. A national poll published this month by Maclean’s Magazine also revealed that many Canadians are biased against religious minorities, particularly in Quebec. The survey by Angus Reid Strategies reported that 68 per cent of Quebecers view Islam negatively while 52 per cent of Canadians as a whole have a low opinion of the religion. It found that 36 per cent of Quebecers view Judaism unfavourably, compared with 59 per cent of Ontarians. The Léger Marketing survey of 1,003 Quebecers was conducted by online questionnaire May 13-16. Results are considered accurate within 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. [email protected] © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette