Quebec Values


The province of Quebec is unique in Canada; many non Canadians know that Canada has two official languages – French and English – how many people know Quebec has it’s own legal system based on French civil law? It’s complicated; for anyone wanting to learn more the link below gives a good overview,

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/just/03.html

Quebec values is a term given to a bill expected to be introduced in parliament this fall by the Parti Quebecois – aimed at regulating religious symbols. If you worked at a government office, police station, public school or daycare, university or hospital you would be forbidden to wear a burqa, turban, hijab, yarmulke, or cross. Some exceptions would be allowed under the amendment to the Quebec Charter of Rights; a crucifix in the National Assembly would be considered an “icon of cultural heritage”,  as it was a gift from the Catholic Church in 1936. The Marois government is also considering an exemption for staff at institutions such as hospitals, with a clause specifying the exemption be reviewed every 5 years.

Bernard Drainville, Quebec’s Minister of Democratic Values is the driving force behind the bill he originally called the Charter of Secular Values. The debate was sparked in 2007 when the Bouchard-Taylor Commission took a look at “religious accommodation” in Quebec. Last week Charles Taylor spoke in a televised interview saying the bill far exceeds  recommendations of the commission.An excerpt of Taylor’s comments from a CTV news story….

“They are proposing such strict restrictions that it will create problems… People will feel rejected by Quebec,” said Taylor.

He said that widespread bans against religious icons would end up creating ghettos in Quebec.

“It tells a category of citizens ‘you are excluded, we don’t want you here.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”

While conducting their commission, professor Taylor and historian Gerard Bouchard found, early on, that Quebecers were almost paranoid with fear that Muslims were taking over society. Taylor and Bouchard found those fears were not rooted in reality, and said that Quebec should work to integrate all citizens.

“The rules we proposed were very clear: institutions are neutral, individuals are free,” said Taylor.  ridiculous –

I’m still pondering “Quebec Values” –  I believe it’s a step in the right direction, perhaps being taken a little too far. Asking a woman to remove her hijab when entering a government building seems a bit much. Then I remember I live in a country whose federal employees are forbidden to say “bless you” after someone sneezes – I’ll take attempts to extract church from state, however feeble or silly over the Tea Party any day.

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/proposed-quebec-values-could-ban-all-religious-symbols-in-public-buildings-1.1418860

Notes Nation


Imagine if there was a place on earth where we could wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. A place where elected officials served the people, taxes paid for infrastructure, education, and healthcare.  A nation where all were welcome and equal; free to practice or believe anything they wanted in the privacy of home. A place free from corruption and political influence.

I’ll call this nation Notes.

It would be against the law for businesses or companies to contribute funds towards political campaigns. All individuals running for political office would be given equal amounts of commercial free public air time. Absolutely free of charge; a public service announcement with the stipulation they stuck to their mandate. Negative ad campaigns and smear tactics would be forbidden. There would be no lobby or special interest groups making back room deals or paying for influence.

Taxation would be fair and apply to everyone. No tax exempt or non profit status as we know it; instead these organizations would have an exemption to cover operating costs, after that taxes would be levied. Any major expenditure such as building a new church would require an application and permit to justify the privilege of tax free status.  NPO’s would be audited on a regular basis. Televangelists would be taken off the air; free to preach in places of worship, not to take credit card numbers when the phone lines opened.It would be classified a “hate crime” for any religious organization to speak out against activities or lifestyle outside their faith. Elected officials, teachers, or any person in a position of influence could not use “god” as the basis of their opinion. Citizens would be free to follow any faith they choose, but it would be a private matter, a non profit, behind closed doors matter.

Guns would be illegal, and there would be zero tolerance for sexual assault or crimes against children. School curriculum would not only include cursive writing, all students would be educated on the history and beliefs of world religions. Tolerance and critical thinking would trump bigotry and closed minds.

Before dismissing this ponder as a Miss America contestants “world peace” speech – stop and think a moment. Notes nation is a place where business has no influence over government, religion is taken out of politics, and schools replace a singular “god” with unbiased knowledge. Simple, sensible, and sadly just about as effective a thought as Miss America and world peace.

Pondering Wages


I`ve been so busy blowing off steam on American gun laws and crime, a blinding truth eluded me. Something so basic, it escaped consideration until tonight. Forgive me if the nuances of my point are a little rough – I`m pondering as I type. While exchanging comments with wordpresser Behind The Booze, I innocently discovered the minimum wage for employees receiving tips is $2.13 an hour. Scraping my jaw off the floor I asked if she were yanking my chain. Her assurance convinced me to do a little research. Looking back I should have picked up on this sooner; my son has an American friend who told me in the state of Washington overtime is only paid after working more than 40 hours in a week.  Her employer can legally schedule her for 3 – 12 hour shifts a week without paying a dime in overtime. That in itself was shocking; I should have realized sooner the problem ran much deeper.

Taking a crash course in American labour law is tricky. As of 2009 the federal minimum wage was set at 7.25 an hour. But wait; did I mention exemptions. Employees who receive tips have a minimum set at 2.13, theoretically they keep their tips and if they average less than the federal minimum after wage and tips combine – the employer is supposed to top it up to meet the federal standard of 7.25. The wage for `tipped`employees varies from state to state, $2.13 is the lowest. Not as low as farm workers who only earn $1.60 an hour depending on the state. It gets better! Employers not conducting interstate business, whose income is less than 500,000 a year are exempt from paying minimum wage. As are seasonal and migrant employees, students, and certain disabled persons. Holy crap! These waters are far to muddy to wade through in one sitting – my feet are barely wet, yet I`m having trouble wrapping my head around what little I know. There are state laws, federal laws, exemptions, and exclusions – a lot to sort out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_in_the_United_States

Well over 30 years ago I visited San Francisco for the first time. An incredibly beautiful and vibrant city, yet for the first time in my life something struck me as odd. My sub-conscious tried to make sense of it – it wasn`t seeing homeless women and families for the first time, though that was certainly a piece of the puzzle. The ah-ha moment came when it dawned on me – San Francisco was a city of the very rich and extremely poor – no middle class in sight.

Over the years since, and many American cities visited; I`ve laid eyes on the same situation, over and over again. On one of our marathon road trips we found ourselves off the main road in east St. Louis. Not an area of `projects`, but a once thriving residential neighbourhood. Neglected infrastructure – pot holes large enough to swallow a car, street lights dark, abandoned businesses, families crowding dark porches of decrepit houses to escape the stifling heat, and most surprising – an abandoned hospital; squatters had taken up residence, with bed sheets covering broken windows.

Getting back to the ponder sparked by Behind the Booze….

http://behindthebooze.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/stupid-questions-why-is-beth-so-mean/

My full on assault against the American mindset on guns and violence neglected to consider the minimum wage and convoluted labour laws. The average American has every right to be terrified of criminals – knowing this is a broad generalization, but grasping for a moment why crime might be more appealing than minimum wage – I`m thinking the lack of incentive to work, could account for oppressive crime rates.

Life is a crap shoot. Born of the wrong colour, wrong side of the tracks, or handicapped mentally or physically – odds are stacked against you. Sure, people rise above, but ponder options the majority are offered. Who can live on a minimum federal wage of $7.25 an hour. Convoluted exemptions, state vs. federal laws, and loop holes favouring business – no wonder crime looks more attractive.

My warm, fuzzy, mildly socialist Canadian view makes it difficult to comprehend unacceptable minimum wage. My part time bartenders make $16.00 an hour to start. In British Columbia the legislated minimum wage is $10.25, no ands, ifs, buts, or maybes. Time and a half is paid after 8 hours work, double time after 12,  any time a worker has less than 8 hours between shifts, or with less than 36 continuous hours free from work in a week. Even without benefits – those employed as part time or seasonal – universal, not for profit medical care treats every citizen equally.

I doubt I`ll ever be able to reconcile the legality of semi-automatic weapons, yet received a glimmer of understanding why crime is such a problem in America. Unskilled jobs in America are incapable of supporting a family, let alone any individual trying to get ahead. Our world has become unbalanced – I suggest we stop blaming violent video games, or perish the thought – working families or the lack of `God`,  and start taking a long hard look at what incentive there is for those dealt a lousy hand to get a job.

Before anyone jumps down my throat – I`m not painting everybody with the same brush by suggesting crime is the path of least resistance.  That said, pondering wages certainly expands my understanding of American problems.

minimum wage

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-united-states-is-very-different-from-its-neighbors-when-it-come-to-minimum-wage-2013-2