2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 3

Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Proposed Quebec Charter of Values

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the damaging effect that the Quebec government’s proposed Charter of Values is having on visible minority communities in Canada.

I would start by describing a conversation that I had with a young Sikh Québécois boy no older than eight years who was wearing a turban. This young boy spoke to me with an expression of deep concern and fear. He said, “The Quebec Separatist government wants us to leave. But I’m not an immigrant; I was born here. Where will I go? My father was born here; where would we go? Quebec is our home.”

That young boy was expressing something that no Canadian should be feeling within Canada. He was expressing a profound sense of exclusion from his own community.

Honourable senators, I would like to explain to the Senate what it means to wear a turban for a practising Sikh so that we can understand the disproportionate sacrifice that the Quebec Separatist government is asking Sikhs to make.

I want to start by telling you what it is not. It is not just a piece of cloth. It is not a head covering that can be removed upon command. It is nothing something someone adorns without understanding the significance that it entails. To ask a Sikh to remove his or her turban would be like asking them to remove their own head. It is an intrinsic part of them. It is not only a form of religious expression; it is a religious obligation. The turban serves as a mark of someone who is aware of the divine presence. It is a symbol of someone who is openly expressing his or her commitment to the Sikh gurus, especially in times of severe persecution. It is an intricate and existential connection to their religion but also a reminder of their duties towards the societies within which they live and serve.

Honourable senators, when I ask this young boy what he was going to do about the Quebec government’s proposed Charter of Values, he told me that he is a proud Québécois and that he’s not going to go anywhere. He’s going to stay and fight for his rights in Quebec.

Honourable senators, we need to stand behind this wise young boy and ensure that his rights, those rights that bind all of us as Canadians, are not trampled upon.