A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion

When I listened to the latest podcast of Day 6, a CBC radio program, and heard about the use of local codes and zoning by-laws to prevent the opening or force the closure of mosques in several Quebec municipalities, I shook my head. And then I hit Google to learn more.

According to a February 18th Canadian Press article by Martin Ouellet, “All mosques should face ‘Quebec values’ investigation before being allowed to open: CAQ leader,” Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault said that a provincial agency should be created that would be able to determine whether “applicants [for mosques] have consistently denigrated Quebec values.”

And a February 26th article by Stephen Maher, “Quebec mosque closes to avoid $912 daily fine from municipality,” noted a Cogeco Nouvelles poll found 65% of Quebecers would not like to have a mosque in their neighbourhood.

The Day 6 interview noted the difficulty that Muslims in some Quebec municipalities have faced in finding worship spaces follows the Charlie Hebdo attack in January. The atrocities committed by ISIS—and its recruitment of or appeal to foreign nationals, including some Canadians—likely come into play as well. But how can we tar all Muslims with an Islamist brush?

There is a church in the U.S. (which I won’t name here) that many consider to be a hate group, but its members consider themselves Christians—as do many members of white supremacist organizations. What if churches were denied permits based on the fear that their parishioners would act like these groups? We wouldn’t want all Christians to be looked upon with fear and distrust because of the actions of a relatively few people. But, increasingly, Muslims face these reactions—and although we’d like to consider this country especially tolerant, it happens in Canada, too.

Quoting Lumen gentium, s. 841 of the Catechism reminds us of our relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters:

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

The acts of some extremists should not be held up as an excuse to discriminate against Muslims in denying them places to worship and have fellowship. I pray that cooler heads and common sense would prevail and that the fundamental freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, and association guaranteed everyone by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be respected.

Sometimes I wear a gold cross necklace my husband gave me. Sometimes I read books about the faith or Christian fiction while I’m waiting before an appointment. And I often carry a small rosary in my purse.

But while this week a commenter on this blog told me I needed to be “properly saved,” as a Christian in a country where many citizens identify themselves as Christians, I’ve rarely experienced intolerance based on my religion.

Unlike my fellow Canadians in Quebec now facing a “Charter of Values” that would restrict their freedom of religion should they work in the public sector or want to apply for such jobs.

According to articles in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen, workers could wear a small crucifix or Star of David (“large” and “small” not having been defined yet) but no turban, kippa or hijab. And the Quebec government believes it could enact this charter without invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Should I raise one eyebrow to show I’m puzzled or both to show I’m shocked?

It’s increasingly common for individuals and groups in our society to suggest we should keep our religious beliefs to ourselves, at home. The proposed charter follows that line of thinking. But for many Canadians, our faith is woven into our lives, whether we reveal it by our clothing and accessories or choose not to do so.

As the Catechism reminds us in s. 2137, “Men of the present day want to profess their religion freely in private and in public.” This was drawn from the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

How can we claim tolerance and freedom of religion as core values of our society and then inform people that expressing their faith through religious head coverings or jewellery isn’t acceptable?

By telling people of faith they need to blend in and limiting opportunities for some Quebeckers, this charter would effectively roll up the welcome mat for some people who now call Quebec home. And others would think twice about making their home there—particularly those who have come to Canada to escape the intolerance or even persecution they faced in their homeland because of their religion.


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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