Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Administrative Guidelines in the Form of Art?

I don't want to add too much to the hubbub about the Charter of Values that Québec's nationalist minority government 'unveiled' yesterday. The basic idea is that religious neutrality is to be required in the public sphere (but there are numerous exceptions). I have a couple of administrative-law-related points.

One thing that drew my attention yesterday was the infographic produced as a guide to what will be and will not be permissible dress for public employees under the new Charter. For example, the following are permissible:
Une petite croix autour du couUne petite bague autour du doigtUne petite boucle d'oreille

But these are not:

Une Kippah.Un voile/HijabUne grosse croix autour du couUn turban

Un vêtement recouvrant l'ensemble du visage sauf les yeuxWhatever one thinks of the substance of the prohibitions, the use of infographics to communicate the expected standards of enforcement is very interesting. Indeed, the infographics make it relatively clear precisely what will be prohibited and what will be permitted. Reading the text of the Charter would not resolve the question. So resort to art is an interesting means of providing clarity.

Another point touches on administrative law and is worth mentioning because it has been passed over in the public debate. Immigrants to Québec (like me) already have to sign on to a statement of "common values":
Speaking French is a necessity
A free and democratic society
A society enriched by its diversity
A society based on the rule of law
Political and religious powers are separate
Men and women have the same rights
The exercise of human rights and freedoms must respect the rights and freedoms of others and the general well-being
I will leave it to you to judge whether, in the light of this mandatory document, further symbolic support for Québec values is necessary.

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