In an unexpected outcome, the Liberal Party, led by Philippe Couillard, won Monday’s election in Quebec, bringing closure to the much-debated Charter of Values and other issues that threatened the Jewish community in Quebec. It was a resounding defeat to the Parti Québécois, led by Pauline Marois, who promoted the Charter of Values, and other legislation designed to address the question of “reasonable accommodation” of religious beliefs, and promote “neutrality” in the government.
The Charter of Values proposed limiting the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols in government settings, including kippahs, turbans, or hijabs, and would make it mandatory to have one’s face uncovered when providing or receiving a state service.
In addition, the PQ caused an uproar a few weeks ago when Louise Mailloux, a leading candidate, espoused a “kosher tax conspiracy,” stating that kosher certification is a “rip off,” “robbery” and a “tax” paid “directly to the synagogue,” unbeknownst to Quebecers.
David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Quebec (CIJA) explained, “This result brings closure to [the] ‘Charter of Values.’ It is safe to say that the threat of this legislation is behind us. However, it is to be expected that the new government will have to introduce some sort of legislation to address the whole issue of ‘reasonable accommodation’ of religion, the general public needs to be reassured that ‘reasonable accommodation’ is indeed ‘reasonable.’”
“Baruch Hashem, we can all breathe again,” said Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Cote Saint Luc. “The campaign started just before Purim, and now it feels like Purim once again. No one expected this outcome. “
It actually was quite remarkable that the PQ ended up falling so quickly and losing so badly. Although several weeks ago, at the beginning of the campaign, polls indicated that the PQ was leading by close to 40 percent, the past two weeks indicated a Liberal victory.
“Ironically, the ‘secular charter’ brought about a reversal of biblical proportions,” said Rabbi Steinmetz. “Even those who were initially attracted to the PQ platform were repulsed by the unbridled bigotry of Janette Bertrand and Louise Mailloux, and instead of being an electoral asset, in the end, the ‘Charter of Values’ became a liability for the PQ … It is gratifying to see that in the end, Quebec rejected the politics of intolerance and division.”
The elections results sent a clear message that Quebec voters recognized the importance of economic stability and wanted to stay away from the divisive politics that emerged as a result of the PQ’s proposed secular values charter.
“We are very relieved,” continued Mr. Ouellette. “We hope that this toxic atmosphere will pass, and all Quebecers will work to repair the hurt and suspicion caused by this whole debate.”