Letter: The values charter would be unhealthy

Published October 15, 2013 by The Gazette

The proposal by the Parti Québécois for a Charter of Quebec Values raises key questions about the direction of our society. We write here as mental-health practitioners, researchers and educators directly involved in issues of cultural diversity in mental health and health-care services.

Although respect for human rights is the most basic reason for rejecting the Charter of Quebec Values, we are deeply concerned about its negative effects on mental health, well-being and social integration. We believe the proposals are profoundly misguided for many reasons.

Neutrality as a veil for discrimination: Under the banner of secularism and neutrality, the proposed Charter launches an attack on minorities and on the very idea of diversity in society. Neutrality — in the sense of equity, fairness, openness and even-handed recognition — does not depend on ignoring difference or insisting that individuals hide their identities. On the contrary, it means recognizing people for who they are and ensuring that they have the same opportunities as others regardless of their identity.

Tolerance, mutual understanding and respect come from dialogue with others. Public displays of religious affiliation are affirmations of personal and communal identities and values from which we all can learn. Excluding personal expressions of culture, religion and spirituality by employees working in public institutions will prevent people from learning about each other and will lead to more stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion. The charter will thus undermine efforts to build a tolerant and inclusive society, and will increase ethnic conflict both at home and abroad. It is a major step backward in the effort to build a pluralistic society committed to human rights.

The politics of division: making a religion of secularism: The thinking behind the charter is a throwback to an earlier time when racism, anti-semitism and discrimination against minorities were features of everyday life in Quebec — as they also were elsewhere in Canada. Both anglophone and francophone institutions participated in this intolerance. The Jewish General Hospital was built in the 1930s because of systematic discrimination at major academic and health-care institutions in Montreal.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Letter+values+charter+would+unhealthy/9033600/story.html

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