To the north, Canada’s province of Quebec is seeking to prohibit religious symbols such as the wearing of the turban, yarmulke or headscarf by public employees in a political maneuver believed to be veiled in secularism. The move by Quebec’s provincial government follows in the footsteps of the Quebec Soccer Federation, who earlier this summer attempted to ban the wearing of the turban in amateur soccer in the province (the ban was lifted after national and international criticism and objection). The irony is that while the province seeks to limit religious freedom, Canada operates under an official policy of multiculturalism.
On The Immanent Frame, Kathleen Skerrett considers how multiculturalism has been caught in the divide between religious freedom and secularism in both the United States and Canada:
…infringement on and violations of religious conscience are ways in which majority governments signal to minority citizens that the dominant vision will be enforced. This approach legitimates anxiety in response to diverse formations of freedom, precisely at those seams where any formations seem most fugitive from the government’s or the majority’s vision. To reduce protection of rights to accommodation and neutrality—where everyone is equally the same—reduces the value of multiculturalism because it reduces the diversities and capacities of freedom.
…A robust multicultural society must venture robust conceptions of freedom. Complex capabilities, such as moral imagination, discretion, and perseverance through uncertain challenges, or fidelity in the face of many options, are not built from “believing whatever you want”. Believing or doing whatever you want is frequently banal; it is the freedom of the wanton, the consumer, or the gamer, all of whom can just fail and start again. Meaningful freedom of religious expression is made out of sustained patterns of devotion, attention, creativity, and self-restraint. The right to freedom of religion epitomizes the paradox of freedom: the more meaningful an individual’s freedom, the more one reduces one’s options in expressing it.
Read more here.