Jonathan Kay: The PQ is becoming the party of small-minded atheists
The Parti Québécois styles itself as being on the vanguard of feminism, secularism, sexual tolerance and all the other hallmarks of social liberalism. Yet in some ways, its members are mired in xenophobic attitudes that the rest of Canada rejected a generation ago.
Just as a Parti Quebecois candidate was forced to resign for an anti-Islam Facebook post, a Jewish group is accusing another PQ candidate of spreading an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” created by the KKK.
In an interview with La Presse, PQ candidate Louise Mailloux said she stands by previous comments, which included that kosher certification is a plot by rabbis to finance “religious wars.”
The statement has angered one Jewish group, who said the theory is “created and spread by the Ku Klux Klan” and neo-Nazi groups.
Fourteen years ago, a conservative Alberta-based magazine published an article titled “Is This Kosher?” in which the author reported credulously on allegations that kosher food labeling in Canada comprises a “Jewish tax” that rabbis use to siphon money out of the pockets of gentile food buyers. The source of the allegations turned out to be an eccentric, retired Ukrainian-Canadian psychologist. At first, the magazine stood by the report. But when it became clear that the article was indefensible, the editors backed down, and published a lengthy rebuttal by Ottawa writer Joseph Ben-Ami. This is the last time any mainstream English-language Canadian publication has advanced the theory that Canadians are being victimized by a “Jewish tax.”
Yet in Quebec, this theory seems to have a shelf life longer than a bottle of Manischewitz. Indeed, by 2008, theories that Kosher and halal food certification significantly inflate food prices for Quebecers had become so common that members of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on “reasonable accommodation” felt compelled to address the issue head on. (For the record, they found that such fears are unfounded and “fanciful.” A 1997 federal investigation came to a similar conclusion.)
In 2012, the issue once again seized the imagination of many Quebecers — including PQ agriculture critic André Simard, who warned the province that applying halal religious standards to the slaughter of animals “collides head on with Quebcecers’ values.” Other politicians jumped on the bandwagon. The front page of the Journal de Montréal declared hysterically: “WE ARE ALL EATING HALAL” — as if “halal” were some form of toxic Middle Eastern tuber. As the National Post editorial board noted at the time: “One could imagine the tabloid’s editors running half-deranged around the newsroom, screaming out the truth of the headline, like a 1973-era Charlton Heston warning everyone that ‘Soylent Green is people!’”
And now, here we are in 2014, hearing the same old rancid fears: This week brought news that PQ MP Louise Mailloux has claimed, in various forums, that both kosher and halal food certification regimes are “taxes” that fund “religious wars.”
Some have accused Ms. Mailloux of being anti-Semitic. But given her comment that baptism is similar to rape, we’d say that she seems more likely to simply be an equal-opportunity anti-religious zealot. The fact that Pauline Marois is sticking by this extremist is troubling.
The Parti Québécois has had a lot of this sort of trouble lately. Earlier this week, it was revealed that PQ candidate Jean Carriere had put up a Facebook post featuring a half-naked woman making an obscene gesture alongside the words “F—K Islam.” Mr. Carriere offered his resignation as soon as the story broke, and Ms. Marois properly accepted it. But Ms. Mailloux deserves to walk the same political plank.
Ms. Marois and her PQ constantly insist that their secularism charter is not part of a xenophobic, much less racist, political agenda. Yet party members keep doing and saying creepy things. In defending the secularism charter, for instance, the PQ has argued that the legislation has a precedent in two U.S. state laws. But earlier this week, it was revealed that in at least one of those cases, the state law in question is an obscure, long-ignored, century-old vestige of the segregation era. The PQ simply shrugged this disclosure off. News outlets controlled by Pierre Karl Péladeau, who of course is now a star PQ candidate, didn’t even report it.
Fighting religious extremism is an important government policy objective. But the PQ’s hysterical approach to this project reminds us that militantly anti-religious activism, such as the kind preached by Ms. Mailloux, can easily mutate into another kind of hateful extremism. If the PQ accepts these haters in its midst, it will soon become known as the party of small minds.
— Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post.
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