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This is how we live in Quebec

These words, spoken by François Legault, the Quebec Premier whose allies passed a law which ‘protects’ secular Canadians from needing to see difference  – specifically how people from different religions traditionally dress in the public sphere.

In a recent study session by Greg Beiles, the Director of the Lola Stein Institute and the head of the Toronto Heschel School here in Canada, we looked at what it means to be a Canadian Jew. One of the most interesting sources Dr. Beiles presented was from Charles Taylor. Charles Taylor was a professor at McGill, a public intellectual and an NDP candidate. More interestingly, for me, is that he is a student of Isaiah Berlin and studied with Rabbi David Hartman. He said, reflecting on his life, “A lot of my work has been concerned with multiculturalism. With creating a society in which people from very different cultures can form together a body politic, a people, a democracy, and fight against all the attempts that are arising in every one of our societies to raise boundaries of exclusion against certain kinds of people – in other words, to divide us.”

It bothers me that this new law limits the ability of Muslim women to hold certain jobs and to be promoted if they currently hold those jobs. There is already enough pay disparity for women. It bothers me that Sikhs will seriously have to consider their religious law or their employment. And that Jews will have the choice to follow modern traditionalist customs around kippah removed from them.

While I am relatively new to Canada, my idea of Canada is one that elevates the various cultures and peoples sharing this land, and not one that prioritises an ideal of uniformity.

As a Jewish community, I know that we will stand with other religions in support of those that will be dismissed from their jobs because of this legislation – if it comes to that.  Because the path to being the best Canadians we can be lies through being the best Jews we can be.


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