Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
- (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
- (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
- (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
- (d) freedom of association. (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)
Recently my 6 year old asked to be the new owner of a slightly ornate gift that was given to me by my maternal grandmother. Looking at it you might think it’s something old school Madonna would like. (At least this is my thought every time I see it.) Or you might think it holds a greater significance for the owner. For my child it’s not so much the former and more the latter. So I regifted my gift. The day after completing the first class at a local after school programme, my child was very enthusiastic to use it, prominently displayed, out in public. I was informed that it is very special not just because it is a beautiful gift but for what it represents.
My child walked around looking very pleased before heading out of the house. I thought “thank goodness we don’t live in Quebec.” But I still felt uneasy. I had used it infrequently when I was in graduate school at UBC and was told that I had been labeled a … well let’s just say you would take this stance describing a person you feel is filled with excessive and single minded zeal. Your description wouldn’t be charitable. This was not a fellow student in my department or one of my esteemed colleagues working on one of the three cross Canada research teams to which I belonged. It was someone in an academic community where I lived – someone who might not have even known my full name and who certainly knew nothing about me. Who knows how many times this comment had been shared amongst a community of over 100 people?
“Big deal”, some might say. Well in point of fact it was a big deal. I left a solid career job and plowed a sizable sum of money into my efforts to complete a graduate degree and further my professional options. The last thing I needed was a reputation that was based on someone else’s assumptions, biases and lack of understanding of what is reasonable and my right to do.
By the way – yes I did dress like Madonna, on occasion, when I was a teenager. Just to further complicate the possible reading of the use of this gift from my child’s Baba even more. This is my “isn’t it ironic?” dig because isn’t it true that we’re so quick to make snap assumptions based on how a situation appears, without knowing the back story?
And so I worried that my child might be exposed to the same type of inappropriate and – quite frankly – nasty and ignorant criticism. I worried that I would have to defend my child’s choice. And if pressed, I would – vigorously. It’s sad that this was my concern in 2015.
Aren’t we more evolved here in Canada?
I turned over my concerns in my mind but I didn’t interfere with the plan.
I wouldn’t normally write about some aspect of a personal choice my child made; however, the significance and symbolism of this choice related to where we are at in our country right now feels pressing and important. It was a personal choice but what’s significant is that my child has the option to make this choice here in Canada without fear of recrimination. This right to make this choice is enshrined in the laws of our country. So are the rights of many other people who have similar goals expressing different beliefs and values (intellectual, ethical, spiritual and otherwise).
Long may they be recognized and protected!
If the principle of gender equality or the secular character of the Canadian state could sustain a policy that requires the removing of the Muslim veil in order to take a citizenship oath, would the same argument not apply to just about any religion-related vestment or accessory? Chantal Hébert, National Affairs journalist, The Star (9/22/15)