A Backwards Move

By Dr. Alwin Spence

Back off Mr. Minister, back off Mr. Premier. Bad laws, even if supported by the majority, are still bad laws

The city councillor from Ville d’ Anjou was upset because she had to subject herself to medical treatment from an ophthalmologist who was wearing a hijab.
The ophthalmologist did her job and the treatment seemed to be fine.
For the councillor, the professional should not have been wearing the hijab because she is in a position of power.
What gives the professional power? Is it the hijab or the Diploma of competence in her field? I dare say the latter.
I would also suggest that the councillor would not have been concerned by a Muslim woman wearing the hijab while cleaning the floor or taking out the trash can.
Since both the ophthalmologist and the cleaning lady are both wearing the hijab, but with different status on the occupational totem pole, it must be the status of the ophthalmologist that threatened the councillor and not the hijab.
To explain this situation, oftentimes the majority of the population will oppose or be uncomfortable working with or accepting a minority person in a position equal to
or better than theirs.
Consequently, the high status of the ophthalmologist would outshine the humbler status of the councillor. This would even be worse if the self-worth of the councillor is very low. Note, the minority person may get the job, but is a long way from promotion, even when deserved.
Mr. Minister, to make it unlawful for people in positions of authority and power to wear the hijab or the turban is actually ridiculous since none of these symbols represent power and authority. It is a big step backward to the days of public signs such as “Whites Only” on the toilet door in certain restaurants, or “Jews are not welcome” posted at certain golf clubs.
Can we afford this backward move? No! We have come too far.
As a teacher/professor for over 50 years, I had power that did not come from the clothes I wore or the colour of my skin. The power I had came from the trust parents and students put in me and my ability to deliver students who will make good citizens, to help my students to become all they are capable of becoming, helping them to acquire the tools towards that end. So, the power I have is good power, power to change, to enhance, to shape.
The teacher’s power and authority is only second to that of the parents and very often the teacher’s power and authority also substitute for those of the parents.
Parents’ rewards and those of teachers are the same. They both want to mould good, great citizens.
Listen to the pride of parents with successful children, and also the pride of the teacher who might just minimally contribute to success and uprightness of his or her students.
The power and authority of the teacher comes from his/her own qualifications, his/her love for the profession and the joy of seeing positive changes in his or her students. Therefore, teachers at all times must have a positive attitude and strong self-worth to be able to help others to be positive and confident. It is also possible that belonging to a minority group causes one to work harder and strive to become the best teacher one can be.
The hijab, the turban, and other religious/cultural symbols are all part of a person’s identity and self-esteem. To ban them is stripping away the very characteristic they need to make your children the best they could ever be. Is that what you want for your children?
Back off Mr. Minister, back off Mr. Premier. Bad laws, even if supported by the majority, are still bad laws. Bad laws supported by the minority are still bad laws.
Mr. Premier, your young energetic minister may be anxious to champion such a controversial legislation and bring it to a successful end, but let him not be blinded by the success of a bad law. He will forever be remembered for his abuse of power against powerless people.
Turn around and stop what appears to be nothing more than keeping a minority in its place. What do you call this? You be the judge.

Dr. Alwin Spence is a contributor to Montreal Community Contact.