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Resist the Québec "charter of values"

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
The March 21 demonstration and opposition to the "charter of values" draws its power from Indigenous resistance and popular liberation struggles.
The March 21 demonstration and opposition to the "charter of values" draws its power from Indigenous resistance and popular liberation struggles.

A March 21 demonstration against the PQ’s “charter of values” is first and foremost a protest against colonialism and racism, and organisers hope to make it an annual event.

Commemorating the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, where 69 demonstrators were killed protesting apartheid laws, March 21 is the International Day Against Racial Discrimination.

The day reminds us that the racism and colonialism are deeply entrenched, and invariably lead to violence. The charter ought to be resisted, but it is only the surface appearance of something far more deep-rooted and ugly.

The charter is letting the historic roots of racism and colonialism flourish. In response, movements against the charter are unearthing a history of their own – a long and proud history of Indigenous and anti-racist resistance.

“The charter really reflects the colonialist mentality of the government,” said Idle No More Québec organiser Widia Larivière in a video interview. “Indigenous people have been living here for thousands of years. They never asked us our opinion about the charter.”

For the sake of political power

The charter is an electoral tool that uses fear of ‘the other’ to seek power. It imposes conservative nationalist values upon people, alienating large segments of the population in the process.

It does so to feed the ceaseless craving for political power, tossing individual identity and freedom aside for the sake of the ballot box – a box only seen every four years, or when the powerful deem it to their advantage. We call this democracy.

This spectacle plays out on television and the daily press, but its consequences are intimate, burrowing to the core of individual beliefs, seeking to purge chosen values from the public workplace – values chosen by the powerful.

At the heart of this are human lives, values and freedoms. Racist attacks have risen since the charter was introduced, and Muslim women have said they feel more unsafe in Québec.

“This is an attack specifically on Muslim women, denying them the ability to work,” said Jaggi Singh, an anti-colonial anarchist and one of the protest organisers. “The charter debate has shown these deep pockets of open xenophobia and racism that are being normalized.”

Resistance beyond the charter

The charter has exhumed a set of values from the past, as its architects look backward to the power of the French colony.

Regardless of what happens with the charter and April 7 elections, the charter has given voice to widespread racism, which bubbles to the surface of Québec and Canadian society throughout history.

But the charter has also jolted people into organsing and action. First Nations organisations and movements have made clear that notions of Québec values and sovereignty are colonial by definition.

Ensemble contre la Charte xenophobe, the group organising the March 21 protest, have issued a statement signed by two-dozen community groups condemning the charter, disrupted a PQ cabinet meeting in 2013 and initiated a creative “art contre la charte” project that solicits artwork against the charter.

Their March 21 protest points to the need to expand resistance beyond the “charter of values.” The charter is only a dangerous expression of ongoing and deep-rooted racism and colonialism.

But if the charter feeds on a history of colonialism and racism, opposition to the charter draws its power from Indigenous resistance and popular liberation struggles. These movements point to a world of free movement across borders where people can express their values freely.

 

Demonstration and march: against colonialism, racism and the charter

Friday, March 21, 2014
Gathering at 6 p.m. at Mt-Royal Métro
(Mt-Royal Avenue, between Berri and Rivard)
Organised by Ensemble contre la Charte xénophobe.
Info: contrelachartexenophobe@gmail.com
To see protest endorsements and statement visit click HERE.

Matthew Brett is an anarchist, social justice activists and publishing assistant for Canadian Dimension magazine active with the Society for Socialist Studies


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Matthew Brett (Matthew Brett)
Montreal, Quebec
Member since May 2011

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Matt Brett is an anarchist, activist, writer and assistant publisher at Canadian Dimension magazine.

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