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Stodgy old Quebec is no longer a cool cat

EVERY province tries to be cool in its own way. You've got your Albertan version (tough cowboys), your Maritime version (fiddleplaying Celtic folks with weird accents), and your B.C. version (stoned slackers).

EVERY province tries to be cool in its own way.

You've got your Albertan version (tough cowboys), your Maritime version (fiddleplaying Celtic folks with weird accents), and your B.C. version (stoned slackers).

For years, it seemed like Quebec had a lock on being the coolest province. You could buy beer and wine in the corner stores! Everybody spoke French and the cities had great architecture. Best of all, they were constantly sticking it to Ottawa.

Then, they started taking themselves a little too seriously. Threatening to take your ball and go home maybe works once, but if you do it half a dozen times over 30-odd years, people just start rolling their eyes.

Worst of all has been the weird habit of constantly claiming to be a victimized minority, while increasingly trying to stomp on non-Francophone minorities.

Earlier this year, we saw the Quebec Soccer Federation ban players from wearing turbans or other religious head coverings on the pitch.

Now the Parti Québécois is proposing a ban on any religious head coverings or sizeable religious symbols for all public employees.

It's like PQ leader Pauline Marois was stung by one wasp, and then decided to wear an entire hive as a hat while jumping up and down vigorously.

Obviously, this new proposed law is stupid, racist, and if it was held up to the values of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would stand as much chance of surviving as a delicate origami crane placed inside the engine of a large jetliner.

Why is this law being proposed in the first place? Marois has defended the so-called Charter of Quebec Values as part of the unique Québécois culture of secularism.

Well, I'm so full of secularism it's coming out my ears, and that's a load of steaming horse manure.

The freedom of people in Quebec to practise their religion or culture should only end when it causes demonstrable harm to others.

Let's say that I firmly believe that I must, at all times, wear a bedazzled purple pirate hat. Is this belief backed up by centuries of religious philosophy and tradition? Nope. Is it a statement about a proud cultural heritage? Nope. Should the government be allowed to say that I can't wear my spangly purple hat? Absolutely not. The point of freedom of religion means even freedom for dummies like me to believe whatever we want.

This law is not about bringing Quebecers together and uniting people in la belle province, as Marois and her supporters have claimed. It's about staking out a tribal enclave and making it clear to those who aren't white, pure laine Francophones that they aren't welcome.

Quebec has turned from a cool young rebel of the 1960s, with its Quiet Revolution and radical politics, into a stodgy, aging, xenophobic old twit, shaking his cane at the kids and telling them to get off his lawn. So basically, it's doing what all the other old hippies have been doing since the 1980s.

Thankfully, not everyone from Quebec is this stupid and intolerant. Justin Trudeau, actually impressing me for once, has spoken out against it.

Trudeau pointed to the idea that people this law sees as outsiders are contributing to an evolving Quebec culture. That's how I see it too - a culture, Canadian or Québécois, is a growing, changing thing. Quebec was very, very different as a society 60 years ago. It changed, in many ways for the better. Now it has a chance to change again.

It it doesn't change, it will suffer the fate of every other old, cranky, annoying and essentially powerless bigot. It'll wither and die.

Matthew Claxton is a reporter and columnist with the Langley Advance.