Here’s to cultural biodiversity!

By: Jennifer Good- The Brock Press

One of the most important things that nature has to teach us is the value of biodiversity (lots of species living together).  At the same time, nature instructs us about the devastating implications of monocultures (think of massive fields of a single crop or a clear-cut forest replanted with a single species).  This is what the current debate on the Charter of Quebec Values makes me think of: the robust vibrancy of biodiversity and the inherent threat of monocultures.

Oct.8.Op.CulturalPictureAt the most fundamental level, in order to have biodiversity there needs to be two things: one, healthy soil in which lots of different life forms can thrive and, two, lots of different life forms.  Based on this, it seems that Quebec has two essential challenges when it comes to the creation of “value biodiversity”: the soil isn’t diversity-friendly and the Quebecois government is trying to dramatically limit what takes root.  Indeed the Quebecois government is considering conditions that are conducive to a monoculture.

A few years ago, I walked into a Quebec City council room and the only thing hanging on the walls was a large crucifix.  I found this display of one religion’s symbol very surprising.  Don’t get me wrong, I am okay with crucifixes.  My dad is Christian.  But my mom is Jewish and when my parents got married they converted to Unitarianism.  As I grew up I became, and continue to be, very interested in Aboriginal spirituality.  Throughout my life I have therefore attended many church and synagogue services, participated in Bible and Torah studies, and sat in the heat of various sweat lodges.  I am a religiously and spiritually diverse, and curious, person.  This is why I was so struck by the fact that only the crucifix hung in the Quebec City council room.  The crucifix indicated to me that Quebec’s soil, as it were, wasn’t welcoming to other faith groups.

And now the Parti Quebecois is taking the next steps to fostering a cultural monoculture with their Charter of Quebec Values; they are limiting the diversity of what might want to take root in that soil.  The notion that Quebec will dictate what is and is not appropriate religious attire has forced people to consider the choices that they would and wouldn’t be willing to make between their jobs/careers and their religions/spiritual practices.  Even the discussion around the Charter has encouraged fear and mistrust.

Nature’s biodiversity provides a clear example of how best to allow for life to thrive.  When there are many different types of life, all of that life is more robust.  What is waste to some life is food to others.  Sickness is much less likely to spread; the system is much more likely to be in balance.

The practice of having public crucifixes in Quebec – a practice that, it is proposed, would continue under the Charter – creates a context, an environment, in which one religion is fundamentally accepted.  To then ask public employees to remove obvious indications of their faith seems to move Quebec towards an unhealthy and unbalanced value-monoculture.  Only by creating physical spaces that are free of religious symbolism and allowing for, even fostering, the expression of diversity of the people who work in those spaces will trust, confidence and a healthy, thriving, value-diversity be created.

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Jennifer Good is an associate professor in the department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film.

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