Parti Québécois: serious about its racism

It looks like the Parti Québécois is serious about trying to ban all religious symbols from publicly funded workplaces.

What a dumb idea.

I'm all for secular workplaces. I fully support the notion that government should have nothing at all to do with religion. But trying to ban all religious symbols is just plain stupid. It reeks of racism and xenophobia. Those most affected by this law are those whose cultures, which are commonly intertwined with non-Christian religions, require the most "drastic" deviations from "traditional" Québécois attire. For Christians who will have to put their crucifix necklaces inside their shirts instead of outside, it's hardly an onerous law. But for Sikhs and Muslims, who feel they are required by religion to wear certain clothes, they will be forced to choose between employment and their beliefs.  What possible public good results from Sikh doctors not wearing a turban? Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, that the turban is clean enough to be hospital wear. If that is the case, then why should anyone care if they wear a turban?

It's asinine.

What happens if a major religion now adopts a new symbol? Jews, no longer able to wear kippas, are told by their rabbis to wear a plain gold ring on their left hand. Would the Québec courts find that now nobody can wear a wedding ring? How far does this madness go?

Well, let's be honest. We know how far the madness goes. It extends to scary turbans and hijabs and naqibs and skullcaps. Because this law isn't really about promoting secular values. It's about racism. Make it uncomfortable for foreigners to work in the public sector, thus preserving jobs for pure Québécois people.

One of the things Canada has that makes me most proud to be Canadian is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This amazing, visionary law is what ensures that all Canadians are treated equally and respectfully. I don't believe in the religious beliefs that lead people to insist on wearing funny hats all the time. I can imagine a situation where such hats might be completely inappropriate: if a person's religion calls for them to wear loose, baggy clothing, and this is a danger for work in a factory, or a safety law requires a person to wear a helmet. In situations with clear problems related to certain kinds of clothes, it would make sense to restrict what kinds of clothes are allowable. Otherwise, if there is no clear problem being solved by restricting what people can wear, people should be free to express their beliefs. Even if those beliefs are silly, or scary.

The PQ is creating a law that is solely about crushing cultural traditions that are centuries old for no good reason. Its stated purpose is to create unity, but the only unity I can see is the unity of racists against the Others.

Why I cannot support the Conservative Party

I don't like keeping one political party in power for too long. The incumbents can become lazy or corrupt and it's good to replace them every so often. Keeps them honest. But the problem is when there are not many choices, and one of those choices is the Conservative Party of Canada. A party who has so many wrong ideas.In 2005 virtually all sitting Conservative MPs voted against gay marriage. Now, they are at it again. A recent private-member's bill was drafted which sought to explicitly protect transgender rights. Arguably these rights should already exist under the Human Rights Acts protecting discrimination against sexuality or disability. However, new legislation was deemed necessary to clear up confusion on this issue because, let's face it, it can be a confusing issue.

The bill passed, which is surprising because it was an NDP bill in a Conservative parliament. But look at that vote breakdown:

I think that graphic speaks for itself. 

(Image source: CBC)

Traditional Chinese "Medicine"

So it seems that Ontario is going to start regulating practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Starting April 1st it will be illegal to practice TCM without being a member of the College.
The college will establish the scope of practice and professional registration, and handle complaints brought by the public. The profession is currently unregulated, but the province in 2006 passed legislation to create a regulatory body to ensure public safety.
Naturally, practitioners of this trade are up in arms:
Peter Lam, a spokesperson for the ad hoc Committee to Support Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario, said “We have consulted with two lawyers. This is against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is illegal.” In addition to a lack of English proficiency, many current practitioners inherited the knowledge from their ancestors and do not have the formal academic credentials to qualify for the registration requirements, Lam said.
I'm not particularly upset that the province is ruling out "my dad taught me" as a proper method of teaching medicine. We don't allow that for many professions, so why would this one be special? Anyway the legislation was passed in 2006. Seems like plenty of time to get your paperwork in order, no?

On one hand, regulating this field is better than the status quo, where anyone with a box of needles can call themselves an acupuncturist, and anyone with a box of powder can practice TCM. Now, you'll at least have to demonstrate that you understand certain basic safety instructions. Like sterilizing the needles first:
3/15/2004: The Quebec government is asking 1,200 people to undergo a blood test for HIV and hepatitis after needles were used more than once at a Montreal acupuncture clinic
Or making sure that peddlers of powders and herbs actually know what they are selling you, and what they're made of, so that they don't accidentally give you cancer:
Ying "Susan" Wu, 48, of Holland-on-Sea in Essex, has been on trial at the Old Bailey for selling pills containing aristolochic acid to a civil servant. Patricia Booth, 58, took the pills, bought at Chelmsford's Chinese Herbal Medical Centre, for over five years. She was in her mid-40s when she first sought help from the centre in 1997 for stubborn patches of spots on her face. The products had been advertised as "safe and natural".
But they contained a substance - aristolochic acid - which when she was first sold them, should only have been given under prescription, and which was later banned.
So hopefully the college can impart a basic degree of safety which is apparently currently lacking in this industry.

On the other hand, we won't see any degree of accountability for improving patient outcomes. The thing is that acupuncture and  TCM do not work effectively to treat illnesses.  Acupuncture is a waste of time with the potential for physical harm, and TCM is taking random, untested ingredients and hoping for some kind of drug effect. Both are based on a mystical notion of Qi, a life energy which flows through your body. Simply put: this notion is nonsense. Any non-placebo effect that TCM has is due to actual chemicals doing things in your body. And as Ms Wu found out in the UK, some of those chemicals are pretty dangerous. Some of them do nothing at all. Who can tell what effect a particular medicine will have? Not even its practitioners.

Elevating acupuncture and TCM from unregulated nonsense to a regulated profession will add credibility to this quackery. Instead of simply regulating them for safety, they should also be forced to prove their claims using the scientific method. Heck, even explaining their supposed method of action using real concepts instead of magic would be a start.

But at least fewer people should be poisoned, or exposed to pathogens now that it's being regulated, right?