Quebec Studies

Politicians, Public Opinion, and Reasonable Accommodation in Québec

Quebec Studies (2010), 49, (1), 87–106.

Abstract

87 Politicians, Public Opinion, and Reasonable Accommodation in Québec Charles Sancy Herrera and Guy Lachapelle Concordia University The purpose of this essay is to examine the attitude of politicians and the evolution of public opinion in Québec following the intense debate around the "reasonable accommodation" issue. In recent years, controversy sur­ rounding the rights of religious minorities has been brewing in Québec. Observers have argued that the tone of the ensuing public debate has cre­ ated a malaise in Québec society which has had consequences for its social coherence and reputation. Evidently, as pluralistic societies expand demographically, it becomes increasingly important for governments to enact policies that strike the proper balance between individual freedoms and communal values. This pressing need is compounded by the fact that globalization and intergovernmental accords, such as the European Un­ ion's Maastricht Treaty, are redefining the concept of national borders through the proliferation of trade agreements. Furthermore, technological advancements continue to enhance our ability to bridge the physical dis­ tance and cultural gaps between the world's numerous states. The frenzy that has surrounded the Québec "reasonable accommoda­ tion" debate has demonstrated how contentious change can become if it ap­ pears to be in conflict with a nation's values. Given the complexity of the subject, understanding the factors that have shaped Quebec's public opin­ ion on the debate requires a multifaceted approach. Therefore, we will first consider the historical origins of the reasonable accommodation debate. Second, we will analyze the debate through the lens of modern theories of public policy. Third, we will explore the effect that the media has had on Québec public opinion. Fourth, we will investigate the effect of that public opinion on the Québec government's reasonable accommodation policy. In our conclusion, we will consider the aftermath of the quarrelsome de­ bate and the future of the policy. Given Quebec's distinctive history, com­ prehending the evolution of its public opinion could provide important data that could potentially help to solve some of the similar conflicts that will inevitably arise in other cosmopolitan nations around the world. The concept of "reasonable accommodation": The historical and legal background In 1991, following the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, the Canada-Qué­ bec Accord Relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens was signed. This gave to the Québec government greater power over the selection of persons coming permanently or temporarily to Québec. The accord, inspired by its predecessor, the 1978 Cullen-Couture Agreement, bolstered provisions regarding the delivery of reception and integration services — and an explicit veto on refugee admissions (Parliamentary Re­ Québec Studies, Volume 49, Spring/Summer 2010

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Author details

Herrera, Charles

Lachapelle, Guy