Charles Taylor – Reflections on the Quebec Consultation Commission on Cultural Differences
One of the most important thinkers Canada has produced, Charles Taylor (BA ‘52) is that rare philosopher who attempts to put his ideas into practice. His writings have been translated into 20 languages, and have covered a range of subjects that include artificial intelligence, language, social behaviour, morality and multiculturalism…he joined forces with sociologist Gérard Bouchard to chair the high-profile Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, the Quebec government’s response to a string of controversies surrounding the “reasonable accommodation” of religious groups; and he published A Secular Age, a study of the changing place of religion in our societies, which the New York Times hailed as “a work of stupendous breadth and erudition.”
There are two recent models –the regime controlling religion or religion controlling the regime; both are disastrous outlooks. The challenge is looking for a way of structuring lives with diverse views; how can we live together as citizens in modern democracy, which is very much different from Athenian democracy. There must not be differences among citizens, no discrimination. We need to figure out how to regulate different outlooks, to see all views on the same footing. We take into consideration the diversity model based on the first amendment of the US constitution. There are differences in established churches – there is trouble if one Church has precedence over another. We have the American diversity model versus French controlling law. There are issues of problems of extremism, for example the19th century protestant Christian vision of society where protestants united to stave off equality; The French 1904/05 laws establishing separation of Church and State; Problem of Catholicism trying to influence the Republic. A major question is “Where is hegemony in religion”.
We face the modern problem of unprecedented religious diversity and immigration as source of diversity. There is a tremendous amount of young people who are searching – an immense number of searchers finding paths that did not exist before – this is a very important feature of the modern religious landscape. Religious control model has no relevance – the diversity law does. There are fears triggered by diversity coming though immigration – these fears are not rational – the presence of each minority religion is still negligeable, thus the fear is not rational. Peoples comments are to the effect that this problem is going to change their society so that it will become unrecognizable, but the reality is that we are going to change even if there was no immigration. We can take part, we can take charge of the battle, there is a well of potential. The problem is slightly more powerful in Europe with the recent wave of immigration, the problem is not as acute in North American societies. We have been through this historically – we did not give rights to Japanese and Chinese immigrants, the problem of slavery. We can all step back. What is religion? What are the differences within religions. There was a very powerful tendency towards stereotyping, Islamophobia, scapegoating.
Racial equality is one of our great values, but Quebec has not achieved salary equality between men and women. Do we really live up to our standards? We need to get rid of our fear of others, for example with the problem of the hijab. What are we fighting for – what is liberal – what is humane? I was a proud Canadian, a proud Quebecer; I can no longer be proud. There are outstanding forces of scapegoating and stereotyping – all of western society has to come to grips with this – look what is happening in France, Germany and the UK. The
has secularist policies and there is a real diversity thanks to Nadel, Gandhi
and Nehru. Therefore
we need to look beyond the west to Indian scholars such as Rajiv Bagai Mohammed
Karaan. There is a great renewal in Senegal. We can’t be left alone. We have not
won the battle of multi-cultural citizenship. Indian Republic