Quebec town bans kirpans, stoning women
HÉROUXVILLE, QUE. -- A sign at the entrance of this rural Quebec town says: Hérouxville welcomes you.
Unless, that is, you plan on stoning a woman to death, sending your children to school with a kirpan or covering your face other than on Halloween.
The town council of Hérouxville, a sleepy community dominated by a towering Roman Catholic Church, has adopted a declaration of "norms" that it says would-be immigrants should be aware of before they settle here.
Among them, it is forbidden to stone women or burn them with acid. Children cannot carry weapons to school. That includes ceremonial religious daggers such as kirpans even though the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Sikhs can carry kirpans in schools.
However, children can swim in a pool with boys and girls alike, because they can't be segregated.
And for the record, female police officers in Hérouxville, 165 kilometres northwest of Montreal, can arrest male suspects. Also part of the declaration is to allow women to drive, dance and make decisions on their own.
"We're telling people who we are," said André Drouin, one of six town councillors and the driving force behind the declaration passed earlier this month.
The town, near Shawinigan in central Quebec, has only one immigrant family and wants more.
But Mr. Drouin said the declaration, which was posted on the town's website and sent to the provincial and federal immigration ministers, is the result of a number of recent culture clashes across the country.
In Montreal, a dispute erupted after the windows of a gym were obscured to block the view of exercising women from the Hasidic Jewish synagogue and religious school across the street. Swimming pools have been asked for gender-specific swim times to accommodate religious groups.
A city police publication came under fire for suggesting female officers should defer to male colleagues when dealing with men from certain religions.
In Toronto, a judge caused an uproar last month by ordering a Christmas tree removed from a courthouse so as not to offend non-Christians.
Debate has raged in Quebec in recent weeks about so-called "reasonable accommodation" of ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, and a Montreal police officer is facing disciplinary action over a song circulating on the Internet about it.
"I asked myself, 'How is it that these people can ask for such things?' And the only possible answer is that these people do not know who we are," Mr. Drouin said.
Immigrants want to be part of Canada, Mr. Drouin said, and to do that they need to know what is acceptable and what isn't.
It's something the federal Immigration Department has failed to do, he said.
Mr. Drouin said the more accommodations made for minorities, the greater the divide. "One of these days you will have [many divided] groups in Canada and groups in Canada, or groups in any country, doesn't make a country."
Premier Jean Charest said yesterday that in Quebec men and women are already equal under the law and that sharia law has been rejected. Quebeckers are tolerant, he said, adding, "I think it's an isolated case."
B'nai Brith Quebec deemed the declaration "an anti-immigrant, anti-ethnic backlash" and Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, called it insulting.
"Why are they picking on Islam and Muslims?" he asked, adding that he wonders why the Hérouxville council hasn't weighed in on society's ills in general.
Mr. Drouin, who was juggling dozens of calls yesterday, said the town, which has 1,338 residents, welcomes newcomers.
"We need them and we want them. And we also want them to have made the correct choice for them," he said.
He said the town council has received about 2,000 e-mails, the vast majority supportive.
"If we travel abroad, we try to adapt to their way of life," said Carole Casabon, a local resident who supports the declaration. "But when they come here, they abide by their own rules."
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Quebec town bans kirpans, stoning women
Posted by Chloe McCloskey at 12:40 PM