Here’s why the “Quebec values test” won’t work

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Quebec is the Canadian province that would be most likely to make “I’m not like most girls” their Instagram bio. It’s always been a little different, and has been recognized as such – but in the last few years, the province has taken a sharp turn towards increasingly tight secularist laws.

So you can get some background information, here are some fast facts: Quebec is the only province in Canada to have control over its own immigration. Quebec also takes one of the lowest amounts of immigrants nationwide. And despite being very culturally Catholic, Quebec is the least religious province in the country.

Quebec has come under fire in the last few years for its introduction of Bill 21, “An Act respecting the laicity of the State,” which was created in response to Quebec’s 21st century fear of religious symbols in the public space. Although it was largely supported, it was criticized for impacting those of Quebec’s religious minorities – the majority of whom wear visible religious symbols – by banning them from displaying their religion and culture in the workplace.

The legislation would, for example, ban a Muslim teacher from wearing a hijab, or a Sikh retail worker from wearing a turban. The same goes for other religious symbols like crosses and Stars of David, but the main issue is that the most visible garments and symbols tend to be worn by minorities, putting them at increased risk for being targeted by the law.

Quebec has done this in the name of interculturalism, its model of cultural integration holding that those of incoming minority cultures must physically and socially accustom themselves to Quebec’s dominant secular culture.

Quebec operates on this system in order to protect the French language, part of the provincial culture that has been under threat of Anglophone domination since Quebec was colonized by the British in the 1700s. This type of unloading of colonial narrative, however, has gotten to the point where too much strain is being placed on new Canadians.

Last week, Quebec’s provincial government, currently led by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)’s François Legault, announced the plan for a new “Quebec values test.”

Quebec has done this in the name of interculturalism, its model of cultural integration holding that those of incoming minority cultures must physically and socially accustom themselves to Quebec’s dominant secular culture.

Starting Jan. 1 2020, all applicants for Quebec residency will be required to take this test in order to live in the province. Each applicant can take the test three times but is required to take a day-long crash course on Quebec values before being allowed to proceed to a third attempt.

In order to graduate high school today, Ontario students have to pass a standardized test – the OSSLT is something that plagues grade 10 kids with endless stress. This kind of government-imposed test is something that is meant to help us get places in life by ensuring our literacy.

But how can we consider this a success if, in first-year university, students struggle to use grammar correctly and structure a paragraph? Government-issued tests like this are meant to bring everyone to the same standard and level of knowledge. Instead, however, they measure intelligence through subjective criteria that fail to set us up for the future.

The same can be said for tests that measure a new Canadian’s knowledge of these so-called Quebec values. Coverage from the Montreal Gazette says that the questions will challenge an applicants’ knowledge of Bill 21, the importance of French, and the conditions of Quebec’s moral contract as outlined in previous provincial legislation.

Given the track record of other tests of the same caliber, how can Quebec’s government expect a “values test” to legitimately help ensure immigrants become better acquainted with their society? But perhaps that’s not their mission.

It also has been controversially decided through the implementation of Quebec’s Bill 101, the Charter of French Language, that French will always be the language of public life. Since Quebec has established itself as a French nation, it has mainly attracted immigrants of French-speaking countries. And if Quebec has the power to select only newcomers who speak French, why are they so concerned with that?

Although upholding Quebec’s French culture and history is undeniably important, so is upholding the broader Canadian values that celebrate diversity and multiculturalism. Perhaps rather than using their provincial values as the sole rights entitled to their residents and citizens, Quebec can trust that those wishing to become Canadian within their borders will do so while observing the other rights and freedoms bestowed upon them in the 1982 Charter.

Simply being different does not make you any less Canadian. Wearing visible religious garments or symbols does not make you any less Canadian. Coming from a minority religion does not make you any less Canadian. Speaking a language other than French or English does not make you any less Canadian.

What makes someone Canadian is their willingness to make this country a better place. One’s knowledge of statutes and the ability to speak French don’t equate to that.

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