Failing the Values Test

This article in the Gazette offers examples of five questions from the new Quebec values test. I confess that if I answered them honestly, I would fail. Let me illustrate.

1. In Quebec, women and men have the same rights and this is inscribed in law. True. False.

The same rights as whom? Each other? Other men and women?

In fact, the people with the most rights are rich old white men. There is plenty of evidence that the justice system is tilted to favour them. I have seen numerous examples of this with my own eyes, both in Quebec and elsewhere.

The people with the fewest rights are young indigenous women. Especially if they’re missing or murdered. Perhaps the mechanisms of the law will be moved to help them. Maybe. Unless a rich old white man is indifferent to their plight. Which is most of the time.

Maybe if the question had asked whether they have the same rights as each other in theory. Though even then, it’s hard to make the case.

2. Choose the illustration or illustrations that indicate who is allowed to marry in Quebec. The illustrations depict: two men; two women and one man; two women; a man and a woman; two men and one woman.

The putatively correct answers are those with fewer than three people. It is not explained why the cut-off is two. This is especially ironic coming right after the question suggesting that everyone has the same rights.

A more challenging question here would be to ask whether old men can marry children (whether one, two, or many). Or whether people can act as though they’re married even though they’re not. Things like that.

I’d probably get this one right because it asks a factual question about what the law states, not a theoretical question about how it’s applied.

3. Identify which situations involved discrimination. A job refused: to a pregnant woman; to a person lacking the required diploma; to a person because of their ethnic background.

They are of course all situations that involve discrimination.

The intent of course is to ask which of these involves discrimination prohibited by law. But of course there’s the law as written, and the law as applied, and these are two different things.

For example: the Montreal Canadiens refuse to employ a pregnent women as a power forward on the second line. Is this because she is a woman, because she is pregnant, or because she didn’t make the team? Bonus points if you can answer in the case where the player is Hayley Wickenheiser.

Discrimination takes place in fact, and is often sanctioned in law, even if it is the sort of discrimination that is prohibited in theory.

4. Since March 27, 2019 by virtue of the secularism of state law, all new police officers may not wear religious symbols. True. False.

So, this is false.

Christians may wear their small crosses under their uniforms. Jedi can wear their Star Wars underwear.

The only religious symbols actually prohibited by the law are the visible religious symbols worn by some minorities that make Christians uncomfortable – turbans, kirpans, yarmulke, Odin-horns.

5. What is the official language of Quebec? French; Spanish; English; French and English.

Canada is officially bilingual, and Quebec is a part of Canada, so the answer is ‘French and English’.

That’s why when you’re in an airplane in Montreal, as I was just a couple of days ago, all the announcements are in English and French. Also Arabic, which is what was spoken by 90% of the people in the plane.

French is the official language of the government of Quebec, but that (of course) is not the same things as Quebec.

———-

That’s the problem with a values test.

I get that the government wants to get the message across to new immigrants that women are equal, gay marriage is permitted, job discrimination is prohibited, there is a secular government, and there is a common (linguistic) culture.

But the way to establish this is not to put the values in a test, unless the questions in the test are very carefully worded. The test provided here requires the respondent to answer with known falsehoods in four of the five questions.

It’s also unreasonable to require that new immigrants share a set of values and attributes a large number of people already living in the country do not possess.

We should promote our values, not by forcing them on people, but by living them, and proving by our own example how tolerance and respect for others creates a better society.

Demonstrators hold signs as they protest against Quebec's  proposed Charter of Values in Montreal
Image: https://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/why-a-canadian-values-test-for-immigrants-wont-fly-in-canada/

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