• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Human Rights Commission: Some Impressive Work

Not all Human Rights Commissions in Canada delight me in everything they do. (I’ve had a good breakfast this morning so I’m in an expansive mood: hence the mild language of that opening sentence. On other days, I would write something grimly different.)

To be sure, my only direct contact with one was in Manitoba, as an expert witness, and the Commissioner there came to the conclusion I hoped he would. But not so in the “Christian Horizons” case in Ontario, nor in others I might name.

The Globe and Mail today, however, features a list of decisions made by staff of the Quebec Human Rights Commission. And I think they did the right thing in every single case: 5/5. They balance so well on the multiple axes of public and private, religious and secular, and individual and community that they show that such balances can be struck and we really can enjoy a genuine multiculturalism of mutual accommodation and enjoyment, rather than a “multiculturalism” of mutual suspicion and ghettos.

In my view, that province clearly leads the country in applying “reasonable accommodation” to the growing challenges of multiculturalism. I know, I know: some of the language laws in that province seem both draconian and absurd to me, too, and particularly some of the policy regarding the education of children in French. Some Québecois individuals and groups (a “shout out” to Hérouxville here) have not always spoken and acted with admirable sensitivity and prudent realism in their distress–or nativism.

Still, the Bouchard-Taylor report is not only the best document of its sort in the country, its the only one of its kind: a serious attempt to analyze the contemporary strains of multiculturalism and deal with them in a practical way that is nonetheless sympathetic to all. To his credit, furthermore, Premier Charest seems to have genuinely acted upon its recommendations to improve Quebec law and life.

We have come to a crucial epoch in Canadian history,  in just the last decade or so, in which groups of newcomers who are not NW-European-types have achieved a level of political and cultural “critical mass” in many areas of the country. They affect elections, school board policies, house prices, and more. So we need to celebrate wise decisions amid our protesting the many bad decisions that have been made.

Alors, félicitations, Québec!

Or perhaps you disagree with one or more of these decisions?