Ghayda Hassan – The Québec Charter of Values and the Future of Living Together in Québec (ASI 2014)

This two-arm mixed-method study assessed the discourse around the Quebec Charter and its impact on the future of living together in Quebec. The first study used a qualitative design to thematically and critically analyze discourses around the Charter and hate-based events/discourses targeting minorities and published in official media. Results show that positions tend to be polarised and use an ideological discourse based on overlapping of religion and gender equality with an underlying association of religion with extremism and terrorism, thus targeting mainly Muslim communities and more specifically, veiled women. The second study consisted of a web survey filled by a targeted sample of 200 university students measuring discrimination, identity, psychological wellbeing and perception of intercommunity relations. Data collection is underway and analyses will consist of multiple regression predictive models.

The Charter of Quebec Values: A View from Cultural Psychiatry

Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, Head of the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry at McGill University and Dr. Jaswant Guzder, Head of Child Psychiatry at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal have co-authored “The Charter of Quebec Values: A View from Cultural Psychiatry” – the paper provides references to support claims made by Drs. Kirmayer, Guzder and other professors and researchers at McGill in their open letter on the potential negative effects of the proposed Charter of Quebec Values.

From the abstract:
Cultural diversity can contribute to mental health. Research demonstrates that familiarity with others can reduce prejudice and that the positive valuation of one’s own cultural identity by others can reinforce self-esteem and well-being. Recognition in public institutions is one important dimension of such social recognition. As well, there is evidence that systematic recognition of cultural and religious identity in health services contributes to improved care. The presence of clinicians from diverse backgrounds in the health care system is an essential resource to improve the accessibility, appropriateness and effectiveness of health care. In addition to undermining fundamental human rights, therefore, the proposed Quebec Charter of Values may negatively affect the health of minority groups as well as impeding their access to safe, equitable, and effective health care. 

You can read the entire paper here.


An open letter in response to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values

Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, head of the division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry at McGill University along with other professors and mental health researchers at McGill have written an open letter published in The Gazette voicing their concerns about the proposed Charter of Quebec Values. The proposed charter calls for a ban on wearing “overtly religious” symbols for public employees such as doctors and nurses, judges, the police, and daycare workers. Spearheaded by Democractic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville, the proposed charter has spurred many voices of both support and dissent.

Those who support it say that enforced secularization is an important step towards protecting the rights of women by ensuring equality of the sexes. Those against the charter, such as Dr. Kirmayer and his co-signatories, warn that the charter will divide Quebec society. “Excluding personal expressions of culture, religion and spirituality by employees working in public institutions will prevent people from learning about each other and will lead to more stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion” the letter states. The authors are concerned about the effect the charter would have on the mental health of immigrants and minorities in Quebec: “Diversity is good for your health: Recognition of cultural identity is important for the mental health and well-being of individuals and communities. Language, religion, ethnicity and other aspects of cultural background are sources of strength, resilience and belonging. There is evidence that many of those who practice religion or other spiritual or moral traditions have better mental health — perhaps because they enjoy a supportive community — and a world view that provides meaning and value to their lives. The positive effects of identity also come from recognition by, and respect from, others. To promote mental health, therefore, we need to actively engage others in ways that respect their backgrounds.”

You can read the entire letter on the Montreal Gazette’s website.

The details of the proposal are still being debated within the Parti Quebecois and legislation has yet to be presented at the Quebec National Assembly. The Quebec Human Rights Commission has stated that the proposed Charter would contravene the existing human rights charter. For further information, please see their commentary on the charter on their website.

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