An interesting article by Joe Friesen and Sandra Martin on secularism and multiculturalism in Canada appeared in The Globe and Mail earlier this month:

It’s a reality most Canadians would prefer to ignore: Although we think of ourselves as a secular, tolerant society, Canada is becoming increasingly religious because of immigration.

Dealing with that change will require a sustained effort to accommodate one another. But compromise may not come easily. Religious beliefs are protected in the Charter of Rights, which must be interpreted in a manner “consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” But what if those values clash with the principle of equality of men and women? Since there is no established hierarchy of rights, could the right to religious and cultural practice supersede the right to gender equality enshrined in sections 15 and 28?

It’s that kind of multicultural anxiety that has reverberated across Europe and is now increasingly visible in Canada. Following France’s lead, Quebec Premier Jean Charest introduced anti-niqab legislation earlier this year. If passed, Muslim women will be required to remove face coverings if they want access to government venues including schools, hospitals and government buildings. And yet, Quebec also voted to retain the crucifix on the wall of the National Assembly as a historical rather than a religious symbol.

Read the full article here.