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The Cardus Daily

Citizen Bossy Boots

Peter Stockland  |  August 22, 2012  |  Fashion, Justice, Politics

The question underlying contemporary elections is how much a free citizenry is willing to the let the State boss them around. Well, all except Quebec elections.

Here, the key query to be decided on September 4 is how much long-established native French-speaking Quebecers are willing to let the State boss other people around.

As my Cardus colleague Brian Dijkema pointed out deliciously in his recent blog, we have already witnessed the preposterous proclamation by Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois that her government would regulate and inspect the hats, haberdashery, and accessories of public servants to ensure nothing they wear to work has religious significance.

Madame Marois, as is her wont, immediately heightened the absurdity by insisting that Quebec’s ancient symbols of religious patrimony such as public-space Christmas trees—a 19th-century import from Prussian Protestants popularized by the British Royal Family—and the Cross in the provincial legislature would be exempt from her proposed “secularization” initiative.

Much of the subsequent negative response focused on the hypocrisy of the State preserving overt Christian symbols while using its monopoly on force to strip them away from adherents of other religious faiths. It was a fair point, though not a full one.

The real clamour should have come from Christian church leaders apoplectic at the Cross being sullied by use as a mere decorative decoy in the house of abomination that the National Assembly has lately become. It was there, for example, that Quebec’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet was publicly vilified by a unanimous vote for his 2010 statement affirming Catholic opposition to abortion.

Under the rubric of better late than never, let us hope Quebec’s courageous Christian clergy will stage a post-election ecumenical procession to the legislature to demand immediate removal of the Cross to quarters where its truth will be safeguarded. Should they be rebuffed, they might consider nailing a notice to the Assembly door asserting bluntly: “It is ours. Give it back. Here we stand; we can do no other.”

Not content with her Bossy Boots foray into controlling other people’s spiritual outerwear, Madame Marois announced yesterday that any government she forms would legislate French-language tests for those seeking to be democratically elected in the province. Whether at the level of school boards, municipal office, or the provincial legislature, the State would test the linguistic competence of prospective candidates. State regulators would then decide on the basis of such tests whether would-be elected representatives would be allowed to run.

The effrontery of the affront to democracy is breathtaking. Surely the basis of democracy is allowing citizens to decide themselves whether they like what a given candidate says but also, as importantly, how well he or she expresses it. Surely it is up to those individual candidates to gauge whether their elocution is up to electoral snuff for those they seek to represent.

Ah, well, no apparently not. Not here, anyway.

“The common language here, officially, is French,” Marois said at a press conference. “Is there anyone who can imagine being unable to (speak) the language?”

What her question really means, of course, is whether there is anyone who can imagine the State refraining from bossing people—that is, people who are not long-established native French-speaking people—around.

While we’re in the mood for hope, let us hope there are a lot of the latter who will respond to that question on election day by saying, yes, we can imagine keeping Statist busy-bodies such as Madame Marois out of the fashion choices, and the mouths, of a free citizenry.

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