Fortier stands up for diversity

Posted on Tuesday, September 17, 2013
"McGill is a bridge; McGill is a launching pad to connect with the global world," says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier. / Photo: Owen Egan.

“The proposal to prohibit our professors and staff from wearing visible religious symbols runs contrary to our principles,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier. / Photo: Owen Egan.

‘We are committed to providing a climate of tolerance’

By Doug Sweet

As debate swirls inside and outside Quebec about the provincial government’s proposed Charter of Values that would ban the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public employees, McGill’s new Principal, Suzanne Fortier, has affirmed that the right of religious choice and cultural diversity are essential values for the McGill community.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Fortier was clear that the proposed Charter, which would prohibit, for example, the wearing of Sikh turbans, “ostentatious” Christian crosses, Muslim hijabs or Jewish kippas by those employed by the province, including medical and teaching personnel, runs counter to McGill’s fundamental values. In speaking with members of the community, she said, it is clear that the proposed Charter is a cause for concern.

“The University must remain a place for the free and full exchange of ideas,” she said. “The proposal to prohibit our professors and staff from wearing visible religious symbols runs contrary to our principles. The wearing of such symbols in no way interferes with the religious and political neutrality of McGill as an institution. All the members of the University community with whom I have spoken on this issue are clearly worried about the proposal, and would like to see it withdrawn.”

The proposed Charter has sparked a storm of protest and debate in recent weeks, including a large demonstration on Saturday that drew tens of thousands to downtown Montreal, and vigorous exchanges amongst politicians and commentators in the media. Opinion polls suggest Quebecers are deeply divided over the proposal, which aims to establish the religious neutrality of the state.

But the proposed Charter doesn’t fit with McGill’s conception and practice of openness, Fortier said in the statement.

“Over the years, McGill has put in place a variety of policies and services aimed not only at respecting but at actively promoting cultural diversity, both in the recruitment of its students and in the hiring of staff and faculty members. The diversity of our community contributes to the richness of daily life on our campuses for both students and employees,” Fortier said. “We are committed to promoting a climate of tolerance on campus which will allow all of students, faculty and staff to flourish in their pursuits.”

Meanwhile, the University’s Faculty of Medicine and affiliated hospitals – the McGill University Health Centre, the Jewish General Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital Center and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute – are also declaring their opposition to the Charter today, underlining that the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols doesn’t impede anyone’s ability to perform their roles as academics or clinicians in medical institutions.


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One Response to Fortier stands up for diversity

  1. Perry Adler says:

    I am very glad that McGill’s new principal is speaking out loudly and clearly against the proposed “Charter of Values”. As a noticeable way to protest this impending rights-violating law, I am asking people to wear a black armband on Monday September 30th. Please read the text below and forward it to your friends and colleagues if you are in agreement with it. Thank you.

    Dear Friends and Colleagues

    I am reaching out to propose a concerted action to protest the Parti Quebecois government’s “charter of values.” In short, this law is an attack on the rights of the people of Quebec. My proposal is that all those in opposition to the Quebec “charter of values” wear a black armband on September 30th. The black armband has been a symbol of mourning for hundreds of years in many cultures. Wearing a black armband on September 30th in Quebec will signify that the wearer is in mourning for the death of freedom in Quebec. Although there are other protests, such as marches, being planned, many people will not participate due to logistical reasons and other commitments. Wearing a black armband is very simple and allows the person to conduct their affairs as normal while being a visible symbol of protest throughout the province against this heinous law.

    I ask your help in supporting this proposal by spreading the word and inviting your friends and colleagues to wear a black armband on September 30th. Please note that the armband can be a simple black ribbon, a piece of black cloth, or even a black sock. I look forward to your responses to my proposal.

    Respectfully yours,

    Perry Adler

    (Here’s my try at a French version of of the above text – I welcome corrections – Merci!)

    Chers amis et collègues,

    Je propose une action concertée pour protester contre «La charte des valeurs» du gouvernement du Parti québécois. En bref, cette loi est une attaque contre les droits de la population du Québec. Ma proposition est que tous ceux qui sont en opposition avec la «charte des valeurs» du Québec portent un brassard noir le 30 Septembre. Le brassard noir a été un symbole de deuil depuis des centaines d’années dans de nombreuses cultures. Le port d’un brassard noir le 30 Septembre au Québec signifie que le porteur est en deuil de la mort de la liberté au Québec. Bien qu’il existe d’autres manifestations, telles que des marches, prévue, de nombreuses personnes ne seront pas participer pour des raisons logistiques et autres engagements. Le port d’un brassard noir est très simple et permet à la personne de mener leurs affaires comme d’habitude, tout en étant un symbole visible de la protestation dans toute la province contre cette loi odieuse.

    Je demande votre aide pour soutenir cette proposition par inviter vos amis et collègues à porter un brassard noir le 30 Septembre. Veuillez noter que le brassard peut être un ruban noir simple, un morceau de tissu noir, ou même une chaussette noire. J’ai hâte de lire vos réponses à ma proposition.


    Perry Adler

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