On Thursday, Quebec’s Premier Jean Charest decided to appoint historian Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor at the helm of a study commission. According to the objective set by Jean Charest, Bouchard and Taylor will eventually publish their study in March 2008 about how the traditions of newcomers must be reasonably accommodated.
The leader of the Parti Québécois André Boisclair applauded such an initiative through a press communiqué and was elated to see that Charest "showed some leadership". As for, Mario Dumont, the leader of the Action Démocratique du Québec, he indicated that it was a way for Charest to dodge the debate on religious accommodations. Evidently, the creation of a study commission tells us that Quebec's Premier is just a mute pussy when it comes to talk about religion.
That being said, Jean Charest dithers to adopt a clear stance on "unreasonable concessions" (Richard Martineau) because he doesn't want to see the support from ethnic minorities wane. In fact, with their highly admirable political IQ, most ethnic people speculate by upholding that criticizing religious accommodations is racist.
While he knows that he's not that popular outside Montreal, Jean Charest doesn't want the ethnic minorities to regard him as a demagogue reminiscent of, let's say, Adolf Hitler (?). To Charest, "newcomers [...] come to Quebec to share our success, to live freely and to build a new life". He also added that "[Quebeckers] need what [newcomers] have to offer Quebec" since they "enrich [us] with their knowledge and culture".
With such a politically correct discourse, why doesn't Jean Charest go aboard in the vessel of "Captain" Stéphane Dion? Charest knows that many ridings of Montreal are meant to keep his party alive. Nothing less. Nothing more.
However, Quebec's Premier is not aware that he displays many serious signs of weakness. Instead of immediately trying to find a way to reassure Quebeckers through a rhetoric full of nuances and concrete measures, Jean Charest is saying implicitly that he wants this debate on religious accommodations to be over. Call this a chronic lack of leadership! That debate is not going to die off all by itself whether our Premier likes it or not.
Furthermore, creating a study commission led by Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor also allows Jean Charest to, in a manner of speaking, postpone the debate on religious accommodations given the fact that the report (that contains recommendations) will be published in March 2008. In short, you can expect Jean Charest to take an ideological rest for one year...
Unfortunately, by the time the report of the study commission gets published, the chasm between pro-secularism Quebeckers and religious minorities could be worryingly large. In fact, postponing the debate on religious accommodations for the next year as Jean Charest did it will not stop the activities of Quebec's Court of Appeal or the Canadian Supreme Court.
Since a study commission, in the Canadian political tradition, is non-partisan by nature, its purpose is to emit recommendations to the government. By that way, Jean Charest wouldn't have to say all by himself what should be done with religious accommodations because someone else is doing it for him as strange as it might look.
During the election, Jean Charest can certainly brag about the fact that he attempted to establish a dialogue between all Quebeckers through Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor. Unfortunately for him, most Quebeckers will probably see the creation of a study commission as a despicable display of indolence from Charest.
Seriously, what an incredible stroke of genius! Honestly, real leaders don't turn their brain off and ask two scholars to think for them as far as we know. By only deciding to either accept or refuse some the pro-accommodation recommendations of Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, Charest just wants to look good in the opinion of ethnic minorities.
Did he forget that he represents the whole population? No solutions without representation in the case of religious accommodation, please, Mr. Charest. Nobody is interested to hear the opinion of Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, because we didn't elect them. Up to now, Jean Charest and André Boisclair can tell us when they'll leave their respective ivory tower.