New racism in 'reasonable accommodation'

Dec 15, 2011

It seems history has once again repeated itself. The recent introduction of a 'statement of values' by one of Quebec's biggest cities, Gatineau, harkens back to the 2007 outbreak of race anxiety when the village of Hérouxville drafted its own code of conduct for newcomers.

The intolerance and racism unleashed by the Hérouxville charter and its subsequent reasonable accommodation controversies, which coloured the 2007 provincial election, saw ethnic minorities painted as a threat to Québécois society.

Yet research from Concordia University, published in the Canadian edition of the Global Media Journal, says those flames have been smoldering since the Quiet Revolution. The hostilities were merely stoked by politicians and media eager to trumpet new instances of ethnic hostility to "reasonable Québécois" norm.

According to Alan Wong, a doctoral candidate in Concordia's Special Individualized Programs, the Quiet Revolution solidified an idea that Quebec was a society bound by democratic values, language and culture. "The 'reasonable accommodation' debates, as they happened in the province, maintain this façade of a unified collective Québécois identity. Those identities presumed not to correlate with that value system are therefore different, 'other,' and not of Quebec," says Wong.

There were a number of events in 2006-07 that led to 'reasonable accommodation' dominating the public discourse. A young Sikh was permitted to wear a ceremonial dagger to his classes. The École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) was ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Commission to provide prayer space for Muslim students. Some female members of a Montreal YMCA objected to the decision to install frosted windows out of consideration for the members of the Orthodox Jewish community from a nearby synagogue.

At some point, politicians took notice. Mario Dumont, former leader of the provincial Action démocratique du Québec party, adopted the slogan of "Nos valeurs communes," which he pledged to defend. Liberal leader and Quebec Premier Jean Charest, as well as then Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair, made similar statements. All three agreed that, in Charest's words, "recognizing the other doesn't mean effacing oneself before the other."

Wong says media were happy to push the narrative of "unreasonable" immigrants insisting on special privileges to the detriment of Québécois values — a practice that has been dubbed "The New Racism." Coverage from newspapers such as the Montreal Gazette and Le Devoir reinforced the idea of majority culture values as being "reasonable" and immigrants, particularly non-white immigrants, as being "unreasonable". Special accommodations requested by non-majority yet white groups went unreported by media.

"The press privileged white voices and their perspectives on 'others', and favoured their absence when it suited the overall narrative," says Wong.

Although Wong sees some signs of improvement since 2007 — the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation being a positive development — he says much of the assumptions of the discourse of that year have become normal. In addition to alienating already marginalized immigrant and minority groups, this represents a lost opportunity.

"This debate diverted attention away from more significant issues, such as poverty, homelessness and unemployment — issues that affect the everyday lives of the disenfranchised in Quebec," Wong says. "Immigrants have been harmed in multiple ways by this debate — directly, through the new racism, and indirectly through neglect of life-and-death issues."

Explore further: Soccer's key role in helping migrants to adjust

More information: Cited study: www.gmj.uottawa.ca/1101/v4i1_wong.pdf

Provided by Concordia University

2.8 /5 (5 votes)
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User comments : 8

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edgeArchitect
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
I don't like this article. :(

People who've moved away from their countries for a better life somewhere else should not distract politicians with own luggage. It distracts them from making the society you _chose_ to moved to even better.

So, leave your parkas in the closet, knifes in the kitchen, and try not to look too-too different. Or, people will start wondering which values you're trying to promote and why.

I'm an immigrant and I'm Canadian, I'm usually white, but sometimes I turn red when other immigrants like myself try to promote questionable practices and values.

With love from BC. :P

PS. I'll give this article 2 stars instead of 1 to encourage you to put your writing abilities to a better use.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
People who've moved away from their countries for a better life
When the natural resources are depleted, then every new people who are moving for better life are decreasing the quality of the life for the rest of people. I don't understand, why they should be happy from it. The principle of conservation of mass and energy is still working.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
For example, were native Indians racists when they did fight against white conquerors?
edgeArchitect
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
The principle of conservation of mass and energy is working. But who is it working for? Canada's population density is 3.4 people for square kilometre, China's is 639 people, that's like 200 times less breathable space. Anyway, this wasn't what I was trying to say.

Another thing I wanna say is about the quality of life. The amount of people occupying an area is not the only factor which affects the quality of life. Say you have a very smart dude comming from another country looking for opportunities, he might:
1. Invent something
2. Hire people
3. Export it to other countries
4. Bring more money into country
5. Pay more taxes
6. Government creates jobs
7. Sell his things for cheap here
8. People using his product get competitive advantage
9. Create
10. Hire
11. Export
12. Raise wages
13. Bring down prices.

Now instead of thinking about how to maximize these things politicians screw around by legislating for whether to wear kurtas or engage in same sex marriages and then wear kurtas.
edgeArchitect
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Dope! No parkas, kurtas I meant to say!

rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
1. Invent something 2. Hire people 3. Export it to other countries
I can understand it, but these immigrants didn't find anything. The natural resources are rather depleted by now and without implementation of cold fusion the human civilization rather struggles with pure reproduction, if not decline. Under such a situation the new immigrants bring no profit for the host country. BTW Environmental conditions of Canada are rather different from China, the climate is much colder and it cannot maintain such a population density without import of food. And Canada should protect its life environment, which would be impossible, if new and new waves of immigrants would flood it. The population curve should face some feedback: we shouldn't allow to move people from overpopulated areas into less populated one or we can never stop it. People should realize, their future is not just in silly doing of another and another children.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
From long term perspective the massive immigration brought nothing good for native people in any country in human history. The native people always died out and their culture disappeared.
RazorsEdge
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Same old story, to deflect criticism the critics have to be called racists.