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Quebec Town Adopts Declaration of "Norms":

The Canadian Press reports:

A sign at the entrance of this rural Quebec town says: Herouxville welcomes you. Unless, that is, you plan on stoning a woman to death, sending your kids to school with a kirpan or covering your face other than on Halloween.

The town council of Herouxville, a sleepy town 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 in this town.

Among them, it is forbidden to stone women or burn them with acid.

Children cannot carry weapons to school. That includes ceremonial religious daggers like 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 other children — boys and girls alike because they can't be segregated.

And for the record, female police officers in Herouxville, 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....

The small town, near Shawinigan in central Quebec, has only one immigrant family and wants more.

But [town councillor Andre] 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....

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 he wonders why the Herouxville council hasn't weighed in on society's ills in general.

The declaration is full of stereotypes, he said, adding that his wife can drive a car and Muslim women do have rights....

Herouxville practices the quaint cultural custom of using French on its Web site, so I couldn't find the declaration, but if anyone can point me to it — or to an English translation — I'd be much obliged. Thanks to reader Christopher Ferguson for a pointer to the English-language version of the Herouxville declaration.

Thanks to my student Maureen Carroll for the pointer.

How's This?:
1.31.2007 4:55pm
BobNSF (mail):

the quaint cultural custom of using French


sigh
1.31.2007 4:56pm
Ben Brumfield (www):
The background to teh standards is here.

It appears that they're backing all this up with a poll conducted in December, asking things like "Accepteriez-vous que l’on vous empêche de faire un arbre de Noël ?" (My translation: 'Would you accept someone forbidding you from making a Christmas tree?').

The majority of the page is taken up with email responses to their publication.
1.31.2007 5:10pm
ed o:
why pick on muslims-was that a parody or an actual quote?
1.31.2007 5:15pm
Bobbi (mail):
"Quaint Cultural Custom of using French," Ha Ha Ha. As a western Canadian Anglophone with children attending a French Immersion School (by my choice) let me tell you there is nothing 'quaint' about French or its use in my country. The Quebec debate and the French language have been one continuous whine of a disagreement my entire life. It is the hideous wallpaper of our national public life, every possible federal public debate takes place in it's deranged living room of cultural expectations, accomodations and dissapointments. The custom of French isn't quaint, it is alive, vibrant and often times a serious annoyance to anyone who has to interact with it.

That said, check out the Globeandmail.com a national newspaper in Canada. They have an extended article with a large comment board on this issue. You should be able to find a link to the text in English there. Should you check out the comments you can find out that Canadians hold divergent views on immigration and a scant regard for proper English, which might be considered quaint - if it was not so depressing.
1.31.2007 5:17pm
SJE:
While I do not agree with the particular standards proposed, I can see some merit in publishing a statement of standards. In a society where the provision of many services comes via the state (e.g. Canada), people who want some special treatment (e.g. no doctors of the opposite sex attending to me in the ER) impose costs on the wider society. Society either bears those costs, or reduces the number of services. There is some literature on how a more "capitalist" system seems to occur in more heterogenous societies. Thus, if the duly elected representatives want to publish a policy statement, they save costs to the society and also to immigrants, who at least know what they are getting in to.

If the "standards" are too obnoxious, the town will not benefit from new immigrants and may wither like other small communities who are hostile to change.
1.31.2007 5:24pm
A.C.:
As far as I can tell, the part about biology lessons targets Christian fundamentalists. And the thing about safety helmets is probably aimed at Sikhs. No particular religion was mentioned. If Muslims feel singled out, maybe it's because some of their customs (especially related to gender) are the furthest outside western norms.

That said, I think the harping on diet is excessive.
1.31.2007 5:28pm
Houston Lawyer:
Precisely which one of the standards is obnoxious? They sound like the law in all civilized countries.
1.31.2007 5:30pm
ross:
Couldn't this easily be seen as a local version of a states rights issue.
1.31.2007 5:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
If I were that Muslim's PR adviser, I'd advise him to be careful about criticizing objections to throwing acid in women's faces.

Makes him sound like a dangerous savage, somehow.
1.31.2007 5:44pm
Steve:
Perhaps if the sign said "It is forbidden to drink the blood of Christian babies" - surely against the law in all civilized countries! - more commentors would get the point.
1.31.2007 5:46pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Perhaps if the sign said "It is forbidden to drink the blood of Christian babies" - surely against the law in all civilized countries! - more commentors would get the point.

The difference is that it is false that we Jews drink the blood of Christian babies, but it is true that many Muslims demand that men and women not swim together and that women not be allowed to drive and condone other abuses of women etc. Issuing a statement banning a practice known to be fictitious could have no purpose other than attacking those with whom the falsehood is associated, while issuing a statement saying that the real views and practices of some groups are not acceptable has the legitimate purpose of discouraging those who would impose those views and practices from settling in the village.

I should say that I don't agree with everything in the declaration. Among other things, I think that Sikh children should be permitted to wear the kirpan. Using the kirpan to threaten or wound would in fact violate Sikh beliefs, and to my knowledge, in spite of there being large numbers of Sikhs in Canada, especially here in British Columbia (where a Sikh was Premier in 2000-2001), there has NEVER been an incident in which a Sikh used a kirpan with hostile intent. (In some places there have also been compromises such as gluing the kirpan into its sheath.)
1.31.2007 5:59pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Its hard being a francophone outside of Quebec. For example, as a gesture of national unity, when I signed up for Airmiles I declared myself francophone. I receive statements in French, but all of the ancillary stuff in the envelope is in English. As it happens I am a native English speaker so this is not a problem, but it would be pretty annoying if I only knew French.
1.31.2007 6:12pm
J_A:
Dear Prof. Volokh

I am astounded about the "quaint cultural custom" remark. You are well aware that French IS indeed the official language of Quebec. You might expect the town's official website being in the town's official language. You might disapprove of the bilingual character of canada but is not different of the trilingual character of switzerland, where the local official documents are only in the local official language. To expect that the rest of the world has to speak your language instead of theirs is indeed a quaint and parochial (not to say arrogant)cultural custom.
1.31.2007 6:20pm
sbron:
There is a bitter subtext to all this. Canada I believe has the highest per-capita immigration rate in the world.
Unfortunately, some Muslim immigrants clearly have similar attitudes to their British counterparts, who favor Sharia law, etc. But in the 1940s, and to a lesser extent the present day, the Quebecois have been intensely anti-Semitic, even though the Jewish population was highly assimilated. Following the 1995 51% vote against indepenence, Quebecois politicians clearly threatened the Jewish population of Montreal, blaming them for the narrow loss of the referendum. In WWII, the Quebec provincial government even published anti-Semitic propaganda.

So the Quebecois do not want the Jews and during and following WWII, were instrumental in blocking immigration of Jewish refugees. As a reward, Quebec is
now benefiting from high rates of Muslim immigration.
Poetic justice, although if this leads to home-grown
terrorism as in the UK, it is dangerous for all of Canada and the US.
1.31.2007 6:22pm
Steve:
I'm quite certain that Prof. Volokh's "quaint cultural custom" remark was nothing more than a tweak at the town's efforts to bar other people's "cultural customs."
1.31.2007 6:23pm
Tax Lawyer:
Not just Mulims they're attacking -- the comments on dietary customs are as offensive to observant Jews as to Muslims. Even assuming that assimilation is preferable to multicultural balkanization (a view to which I'm partial, to a point), these small-minded burghers couldn't have made the point in a worse way had they tried.
1.31.2007 7:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am not sure that they were saying that the dietary customs were mandatory, but rather that they were the norm. Is this really that different from most grocery stores here in the States as to the source of meats, etc.?

The one thing that they kept harping on was that sexes were not segregated. And, at least here too, that is the norm, though we do often have female officers to deal with female suspects and prisoners - but that is more from the point of view of protecting them from sexual abuse, etc. than from a religious point of view.

And I don't think that it is that bad pointing this out - that if someone moves there, they can expect their females to be potentially touched by male doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, etc. and that public schools have males and females teaching mixed sex classes. Note that for the most part, these are public services, and as such, the government can be expected to provide them in the most efficient way possible, which means without regard to the sex of either the public servant or the recipient.

As to the "quaint cultural custom of using French", a lot of us down here in the States shake their heads at the people of Quebec, who seem determined to impose their French speaking ways on their English speaking brethern, despite being a small island in a huge English and Spanish speaking continent. It is one thing to be bi-lingual, as the rest of Canada is. But Quebec seems to be striving to be mono-lingual, in a slowly dying language.
1.31.2007 7:35pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Oh, lighten up about the French. I feel sure Professor Volokh was only saying, in a wry way, that he doesn't read French.
1.31.2007 8:27pm
thebookmistress (mail) (www):
Sadly, the good professor was unaware of the quaint Canadian cultural custom of whining about any perceived slight against official bilingualism.
1.31.2007 8:44pm
Respondent (mail):
"The one thing that they kept harping on was that sexes were not segregated. And, at least here too, that is the norm, though we do often have female officers to deal with female suspects and prisoners - but that is more from the point of view of protecting them from sexual abuse, etc. than from a religious point of view."
Since most of us would object to being viewed in a locker room by the opposite sex, even with no religious objections whatsoever, there is no reason why a preference for segregated sexes necessarily must be religious. While in our society, an arbitrary line is drawn between a member of the opposite sex viewing most body parts and viewing a few select ones which we feel they should be restricted from, it is certainly reasonable, on a non-religious basis, to object to other parts of the body being seen by a member of the opposite sex- indeed to any viewing of the face or body of the opposite sex whatsoever except when absolutely necessary. Similarly, while our society has (haphazard) recognized exceptions to the no touch rule (doctors and policeman exempted), other societies could certainly reasonably draw the line elsewhere on non-religious grounds. (Note that here in the US mammography technicians in mammogram vans almost always must be women- and even the driver!) So I don't feel it's appropiate to presume other systems of drawing lines as necessarily "religious".
1.31.2007 8:53pm
Bored Lawyer:

In our families, the boys and girls eat together at the same table and eat the same food. They can eat any type of meat, vegetables or fruit. They don’t eat just meat or just vegetables they can eat both at the same time and this throughout the whole year.
If our children eat meat for example, they don’t need to know where it came from or who killed it. Our people eat to nourish the body not the soul.


As an American, my reaction is: this is none of your damned business. That a town adopts this as official policy shows what a bunch of overreaching bigots they truly are.

And BTW, if a Roman Catholic family decided not to eat meat on Friday, would that offend the town's norms? Somehow I doubt it.

Presumably, this passage is directed at Orthodox Jewish families who eat only kosher-slaughtered and Orthodox Muslim families who eat only Halal. What is the penalty for such a family violating the town's norms?
1.31.2007 9:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
J_A: Just trying for a bit of absurdist humor, humorous precisely because it's absurd. (Of course an officially Francophone province would write things in, well, French.) I guess I didn't succeed ....

thebookmistress: Excellent point.

Bored Lawyer: I took the meat item as "quit lecturing us about our eating meat" -- not a dig against either Jews or Muslims, who are generally just fine with what others eat -- rather than "start eating meat like good decent Quebecers"; but I may be mistaken.
1.31.2007 9:42pm
A Guest:
Also note that (in the US) it's been found to be more important not to discriminate against female news reporters than to allow male football players to not be seen naked in the locker room by those female reporters.
2.1.2007 1:26am
Warmongering Lunatic (mail):
See, I'd allow the kirpan. But I would also allow pocketknives to any student who hasn't been a discipline problem.
2.1.2007 6:05am
Rick Wilcox (www):
Bored Lawyer, I took that phrasing more as a matter of "don't demand halal/kosher lunches to be provided at the community's expense". A subtle reminder that the minority has the right to act however they wish; they do not have the right to force the majority to follow suit.

The phrasing that bothered me was about religion in school. First off, the decision to say that symbolic weapons are not allowed within the schools strikes me as being very, very off - especially in light of the aforementioned decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that allows the kirpan to be worn. I need to re-check the language, but I don't seem to remember there being an escape clause from that. Could be wrong. But going further, I think the thing that made me twitch the most was the statement that prayer is not allowed in school. I'm really hoping it's bad phrasing, here, because the thought of a child being punished for invoking whatever deity they follow to help get them through the day bothers me in a fundamental way.
2.1.2007 8:02am
Another Virginian:
They started off on an offensive note with their very first heading: "Our Women."

Thanks, but no thanks. I don't think the town owns the women nor do I think it's okay to stone men or burn them (or stone women in private, since they only mention prohibitions on public violence). UGH.
2.1.2007 8:52am
Bored Lawyer:
Rich Wilcox wrote:


I took that phrasing more as a matter of "don't demand halal/kosher lunches to be provided at the community's expense". A subtle reminder that the minority has the right to act however they wish; they do not have the right to force the majority to follow suit.


That may be your feelings on the matter, but it is not what the town asserted. It asserted, "In our families . . ." and then went on to describe how children in the town eat. That is called dining en famille as the Frogs say, or family-style as we say south of the border. IOW, families eating in private.

The unmistakable message is that if your family is the kind that that does not "eat any type of meat, vegetables or fruit" or who cares about its meat as to "who killed it," then you are not living within the "norms" of the town and are not welcome.

And if that is not enough this line -- "Our people eat to nourish the body not the soul" -- makes plain that the town objects to anyone who observes religious (or perhaps moral, e.g. vegetarianism) dietary restrictions.
2.1.2007 9:20am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
SJE Said: While I do not agree with the particular standards proposed...

I'm with you, SJE. What kind of nazi-like police state forbids people to "stone women or burn them with acid" if they believe their religion compels them to do so...

On a more serious note, I don't know about acid throwing being compelled, though some followers of one religion I've heard of - I think it's right wing republican christianism - believe their god demands the stoning of women who are raped or who show ankle from underneath their dresses.

Sikhism is a different kettle of fish insofar as Sikh political problems haven't really touched the U.S. the way they have the British commonwealth. The kirpan issue has come up a number of times in the U.S. and the one time it appears to have hit federal court, the court looked with favor on a Religious Freedom Resotration Act (RFRA) case settlement which would allow Sikh school children to carry kirpans to school, providing the kirpans were sewn into their sheaths and not readily accessible. (RFRA is no longer applicable to the states thanks to City of Boerne, but it wouldn't shock me if a lot of states' civil rights laws might compel a similar result). Accomodation is more possible with this Sikh practice because some Sikhs carry small kirpans that are in pendant form, and indistinquishable at a distance from the chili pepper necklaces popular among members of another ethnic group prominent in movies involving waste disposal, construction firms, unions, and pasta with red sauce. The problem comes where the right insisted on is to carry a large, readily accessible kirpan. Most I've seen are dull, but not all of them are. The crux of it is that when the state gets involved in accomodating religions equally, as it must at some point, the line drawing is hard.
2.1.2007 9:58am
Steve:
I took the meat item as "quit lecturing us about our eating meat" -- not a dig against either Jews or Muslims, who are generally just fine with what others eat -- rather than "start eating meat like good decent Quebecers"; but I may be mistaken.

EV: You have to place this in the context of a rural town with exactly one immigrant family to date. It's very unlikely the townspeople have been "lectured" about their carnivorous ways. It's even more doubtful that they've experienced issues with women being stoned.
2.1.2007 10:03am
Prigos:
Kind of a silly thing to make international headlines. Small town councils (anywhere) aren't known for their... wisdom. And in this case, they have little to no authority to enforce their "norms."

It's more of a "If you move here and don't play by our rules, we'll ostracize you" notice than anything else. And according to the stats, the chances of an immigrant family moving to rural Quebec are fairly limited anyways. This would just seal the deal.
2.1.2007 11:05am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

And according to the stats, the chances of an immigrant family moving to rural Quebec are fairly limited anyways.

The preamble to the declaration, available in French on the town website, mentions that one reason for making the declaration is that the government has been encouraging immigrants to Quebec to settle in rural areas. They may only have one immigrant family now, but they have a legitimate concern about more arriving.
2.1.2007 11:14am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Yeah, those hicks just made up that stuff about acid-throwing. All us cosmopolites have never heard of such a thing.
2.1.2007 11:31am
Toby:
Extracted from a much longer "Advice for Yankees Moving to the South"
------------------------------------------------------------
Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later how to use it.

Remember: "Y'all" is singular. "All y'all" is plural. "All y'all's" is plural possessive.

Get used to hearing, "You ain't from around here, are you?"

Don't be worried that you don't understand anyone. They don't understand you either.

If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the most minuscule accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store. It does not matter if you need anything from the store. It is just something you're supposed to do.

In conversation, never put your hand on a man's shoulder when making a point, especially in a bar.

If you don't understand our passion for college and high school football just keep your mouth shut.

Rocky Mountain oysters are NOT oysters. Don't ask.
Chili does NOT have beans in it.
Briskit is not 'cooked' in an oven
Bourbon is a food group and beer is the 5th element
Duct tape: it ain't just for duct's

Don't tell us how you did it up there. Nobody cares.
There are no delis. Don't ask.
No matter what you've seen on TV, line dancing is not a popular weekend pastime.
"Tea" == Iced Tea. There is no other kind.

Be advised that in the South, 'He needed killin!', is a valid defense.
2.1.2007 11:39am
quaker:
How different is this from the film that The Netherlands makes prospective immigrants watch? The film shows "racy" images of Dutch life -- uncovered women, h-h-homosexuals! -- and says, in essence, "this is how we live; if this bothers you, then don't come live here."

The Dutch film is a product of recent Dutch experiences with their immigrants.

Herouxville may have only one immigrant family, but Holland has a whole lot. If Holland thinks a statement of norms is appropriate, based on their considerable experience, then perhaps Quebec is simply skating to where the puck is headed.
2.1.2007 1:35pm
H. Tuttle:
>>Using the kirpan to threaten or wound would in fact violate Sikh beliefs, <<<

Yeah, well, funny thing... but it's against most faiths to kill others yet, Shazam!, in direct violation of those beliefs people manage to lose it daily and kill others. But while you're on the line, can you explain just how it is a "dagger" became a sacred or cherished part of your faith? Sort reminds me of the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python.



and to my knowledge, in spite of there being large numbers of Sikhs in Canada, especially here in British Columbia (where a Sikh was Premier in 2000-2001), there has NEVER been an incident in which a Sikh used a kirpan with hostile intent.
2.1.2007 2:50pm
Rick Wilcox (www):
Tuttle:
I give you a quote from the Wikipedia article on the kirpan:
The kirpan has both a physical function, as a defensive weapon, as well as a symbolic function. Physically it is an instrument of "Ahimsa" or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenceless person when all other means to do so have failed.
The kirpan is not considered a sign of power, of aggression, or of "you insult my religion and I cut off your head".

Bored Laywer:
I suppose you're dedicated to seeing the discussion of the family structure as a "adhere to this norm or get out". Never mind that such language isn't included there, and never mind that Muslims are demanding concessions in other places (Muslim-only bathrooms in Australia, anyone?) - that statement just can't be a reminder to immigrants that they don't have the privilege to demand that the societal norms change. Oh no, it has to mean that the town is saying "do it our way or we'll run you out on the rails", right? To go one step further, my position is supported by the following quote:
It must be very clear that any person or persons, groups legal or not that would like to modify our habits and customs or our general way of life cannot do so without going through a referendum process following all laws put forward by our towns and municipalities. These referendums will be at the petitioner or petitioner’s cost.
Where's the language supporting your position? Outside of the ban on the kirpan and their attitude toward prayer in school, I can't see anything that says "you must modify your behavior to be a part of our community".
2.1.2007 3:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
You don't have to go as far as Holland, quaker, or even outside Canada.

I am surprised no one has mentioned the experience of the prairie provinces with the Doukhobors, whose religion requires them to take off their clothes and incinerate public buildings.
2.1.2007 4:02pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Another Virginian: "Our" often means relationship, not ownership, for instance if my brother and I talk about "our parents" or if I talk about "my wife." I see little reason to think that the town council was asserting any ownership right in the women of the town. (Perhaps the matter is different in French, but I doubt it.)
2.2.2007 3:21am