CAMPBELL’S BAY – About 30 people from across the Pontiac, parts of Ontario and British Columbia, gathered on October 19 at the Highway 148 office of Charlotte L’Écuyer, MNA, to express opposition to the Quebec government’s proposed Charter of Values. Although L’Écuyer booked a 10 o’clock appointment with the group, she did not show up, possibly due to a scheduled luncheon in Bristol.
Jean-Claude Rivest, owner of Jericom, explained the protest against the Charter. “We need to hold our elected officials accountable that the Pontiac will be heard in the provincial legislature,” he said of the government’s plan to ban its employees from wearing symbols of religious faith such as Jewish skullcaps and ‘conspicuous’ crucifixes. The ban would apply to anyone working in public institutions, including day care workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers.
“I’m here [at the protest] because of my faith,” said Dr. Yolette Bazile of Fort-Coulonge, who has practiced in the Pontiac since 2009. “If Quebec puts this law in, I will not hide my cross,” she said, showing a small, gold necklace. She emphasized that 10 of the Pontiac’s 17 physicians are from outside of Canada. “There’s already a desperate shortage of doctors here; must potential doctors from Morocco or Algeria choose between their religious beliefs and their profession?”
Rivest added he fears that the public have become complacent to the government’s further eroding of democratic rights, which could serve to polarize society. “It’s baffling that our Canadian soldiers are fighting overseas to give the people there what our own government wants to take away from us here,” he said. Rivest is also president of the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce. “While I’m a person of faith, I’m also a business person who is concerned how this Charter will reflect on the province as being a less than desirable place to invest in.”
Amid honks of support from passersby, the protestors (front page), aged from 2 to 80 years old, marched 2kms along the highway to the downtown office of Mathieu Ravignat, Pontiac’s MP. There, Miguel Rivest (photo p. 2), an 11-year old student at L’Envolée, read to the crowd Ravignat’s message, issued in advance of his known absence. “…. I reject the Charter of Values in its current form… it is discriminatory and opens the door to systematic abuses by the government.”
Dr. Bazile noted, “I’m not surprised the Parti Quebecois introduced this type of legislation. People have put God out of their lives, and the general population are accepting it.”