Commission says Quebec must do more for immigrants

Thu May 22, 2008 4:01pm EDT
 
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By Robert Melnbardis

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec must do more to combat discrimination and help immigrants integrate into its mainly French-speaking society, a government commission on minorities and cultural differences said on Thursday.

The 300-page report by sociologist Gerard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor said it is time to reconcile concerns about protecting Quebec's dominant French-speaking identity and the demographic forces moving the Canadian province toward a more secular, pluralist society.

The Quebec government created the commission last March after a number of incidents in which some in the Canadian province of 7.6 million bitterly opposed "reasonable accommodations" for minorities, such as letting Muslim girls wear headscarves in soccer or martial arts competitions.

The most glaring backlash came in the small town of Herouxville, which in January 2007 published a "code of life" to remind immigrants that it is not permissible to stone women to death, burn them alive or throw acid on them.

After a year that included sometimes boisterous public hearings, the commission concluded that the foundations of collective life in Quebec were not in crisis.

"What we are facing, instead, is the need to adapt," the report said. "Our society is sufficiently divided at present and we must seek to reduce splits and tensions instead of exacerbating them. The time has come for compromise, negotiation and balance."

ANXIETY OVER CULTURE

Some of the anxiety over the future of Quebec's French-speaking culture stems from the declining proportion of Quebecers of French-speaking origin in the province -- from 80 percent in 1901 to 77 percent in 1991, the report said.   Continued...