Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Quebec tribe

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Quebec has a long history of xenophobia, or fear of the outsider. First it was the English conquerors, then it was the Jews in their midst, the English language itself, the British Crown, the federal government, and now, finally, those others who are not like them, people who wear niqabs, carry kirpans or flaunt other non-Christian symbols.

Multiculturalism, Quebec leaders have made clear over the years, is a Canadian, not a Quebec, value.

The latest manifestation of Quebec's assertion of its French-Caucasian-Christian heritage was evident in the decision of the province's soccer association to ban the head coverings worn by Sikhs on the preposterous grounds they were unsafe.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois then framed it as a sovereignty issue, saying Quebec sporting associations have a right to make their own decisions without interference from outsiders.

Quebec children were going to pay the price for that intolerance because the national association had banned them from playing in national tournaments.

The Quebec Soccer Association has relented now that the world soccer body (FIFA) has said head covers are acceptable under minor conditions (they must look professional, match the uniform, etc.), but the sudden face-saving measure won't reverse the ugly trend toward fierce tribalism.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2013 A10

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