Canada News

Get the latest new in Candada


Former premier Jean Charest calls on politicians to promote civility

Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest is concerned about the rise in incivility across the country.

In an open letter that he co-signed with former mayors, senators, artists and business people, he is calling on the political class to take concrete action to clean up public debate.

The letter, which was published this week in The Globe and Mail, has caused a huge stir on social media, said Charest in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

“The reaction is very strong. We were surprised. It surprised me a lot,” he said. “Some people are reacting badly, seeing this appeal as a kind of call for silence when that’s not the case at all.”

The signatories say they have noticed that Canadians are less and less tolerant of differing points of view and are increasingly belligerent, particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They point to a “broad and disturbing” trend, which is leading some people with “strident ideologies” and no nuance to act in ways that are sometimes intimidating and violent.

“We ask you, the senior political leaders, to demonstrate your shared commitment to fostering a safer, more cohesive and respectful Canada, where hate has no place,” they wrote.

In their view, politicians should constantly talk about the “values that unite us” and fight hate, while protecting the right of every Canadian to express strong or unpopular views.

If nothing is done to “urgently tackle the rise of incivility,” the fabric of Canadian society will be “torn apart, perhaps irretrievably,” warn the authors.

Bélisle, St-Pierre Plamondon and Joly

For Charest, there is no doubt that social media has “liberated people’s speech.”

He is particularly outraged to see what is happening in Quebec’s municipalities.

Last February, Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle threw in the towel, explaining that she had been the victim of intimidation. Some 800 municipal councillors have resigned since the 2021 election.

“(Incivility) affects the ability of elected representatives to do their jobs, to such an extent that some people, like the mayor of Gatineau, give up,” said Charest. “There are women who, unfortunately, find themselves in rather distressing situations when people make remarks on social media that are frankly hurtful and intended to wound.”

He also mentioned PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who recently received death threats, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, who was questioned in the street about the hostilities in the Middle East.

The conflict is also inflaming passions on Quebec university campuses, according to Charest.

“I was talking to a university rector recently. They are on the lookout (…) for dialogue on the campuses, but it’s very difficult, because there are a lot of emotions, and that’s a major concern,” he said.

Charest was Premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012 and said he sees a “drift,” with the level of tension having increased a lot in recent years, “hence the call to elected representatives to talk about it.”

He notes the influence of American politics: “We say to Quebecers and to all other Canadians: ‘Don’t let what happens in the United States influence your way of seeing things.'”

“We want to live in a society where there is a culture of tolerance, acceptance and dialogue (…) Our democracy is too important to let these things pass without saying anything,” he concluded.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 6, 2024. 

View original article here Source