Non-secular peace thriving in northern Quebec community
Illustration by Tina Wallace
THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT has been receiving its fair share of negative attention lately thanks to a new bill proposed by the Parti Québécois.
The predominantly French province is once again in Canada’s hot seat due to a charter of values that mandates everyone working in the public sector empty of any obvious religious symbols. Since the announcement last week, there have been uproars in Montreal and praise in most of the province’s cities. However, one village remains clueless to the news and its citizens are living in complete harmony.
The village of Nonseculartonville is located on the Northeastern tip of Quebec along the Hudson Strait. The total population is under 400 and the people living there are so removed from everything going on in the rest of the country that they only found out about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—signed into effect in all provinces except Quebec in 1982—halfway through April 2007. Since then the town has decided to implement those rights into practice, despite receiving no support from the provincial government.
Two Muslims moved to Nonseculartonville in the mid ‘80s, giving the town its first religious minority, but today the Muslim community has more than quadrupled with nine Muslim residents in total.
Mahmoud Jaameh, one of the first Muslim inhabitants in the village, said no one feels any pressure to conform.
“When we first flew to Nonseculartonville in the mid ‘80s we were worried about losing our religion and part of our own culture,” he said.
By adopting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Jaameh and the other inhabitants of Nonseculartonville won’t have to worry about that anytime soon. Section 2 of the Charter states that everyone has the ‘fundamental right’ to ‘freedom of conscience and religion’ and ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.’
“My family will always be grateful to this country and town for entrenching the beliefs of religious tolerance and multiculturalism into fundamental rights for citizens,” said Jaameh.
“It’s too bad Quebec didn’t agree to do the same.”
In addition to Jaameh and the eight other Muslims, there are also a handful of Sikhs, nearly a dozen Jews, and almost 100 Roman Catholics in the village today. In total, religious people make up 20 per cent of the public sector of Nonseculartonville. Mayor Bobby Fordcrak wears a crucifix to work every day. Despite all the non-secular energy in the public sphere, there are currently no clashes within the village.
In an interview with the Tomato, Mayor Fordcrak admitted that, surprisingly, religious tolerance has helped build a strong community.
“Everyone speaks each other’s language in town now, as being open to change and multiculturalism has helped bring everyone in the community together,” he said. “We also have adapted our schedule of public holidays to include everyone’s system of beliefs. We feel this is more effective than following a Christian calendar but then claiming ourselves to be secular.”
Jaameh, along with the hundreds of other residents of the small town, is seemingly unaware that the new charter of values would force many in town to choose between their jobs and the traditions of their religion.
While things remain blissfully calm in the quiet, multicultural village of Nonseculartonville, it remains to be seen how this new charter will affect residents in 2024 when they are estimated to receive the news.