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Gender versus Culture Debates and Débâcles: Feminisms, Interculturalism and the Quebec Charter of Values

  • Alexandra Dobrowolsky (a1)


Quebec's Bill 60 (or Charter of Values), legislation prohibiting public officials from wearing religious symbols and garb, provides a complicated case of a minority nation grappling with culture and gender, while also illustrating the more contingent condition of Canadian multiculturalism, equality and feminisms. Quebec has adopted interculturalism versus multiculturalism; moreover, its multilayered women's movement remains a legitimate force, unlike in the rest of Canada. Despite the intricacies of these distinctive developments, this article reveals how Charter of Values justifications asserted the Quebec nation's distinctiveness and alleged egalitarian pre-eminence over others, not only homogenizing and instrumentalizing multiple cultures, but also various feminisms. Yet, when culture, gender equality and feminisms become reified and essentialized through a strategic depiction of certain minority women's rights, Canada's already well-worn claims to diversity and equality are further frayed both subnationally and nationally.

Le projet de loi 60 du Québec (ou Charte des valeurs), une mesure législative interdisant aux employés de l’État de porter et d'arborer tout symbole religieux, fournit un exemple complexe d'une nation minoritaire aux prises avec la culture et le genre, tout en illustrant également la condition plus fortuite du multiculturalisme canadien, de l’égalité et des féminismes. Le Québec a adopté l'interculturalisme par opposition au multiculturalisme; en outre, son mouvement féministe aux multiples facettes demeure une force légitime. En dépit des subtilités de ces développements propres, cet article révèle dans quelle mesure les justifications de la Charte des valeurs n'ont pas seulement rapproché et instrumentalisé des cultures plurielles, mais aussi divers féminismes. La culture du Québec mise en regard des luttes pour l’égalité des sexes a été utilisée également pour affirmer le prétendu caractère distinct de la majorité de la nation et sa supériorité sur les autres. Cependant, lorsque la culture, l’égalité des sexes et les féminismes deviennent réifiées et essentialisés à travers une représentation stratégique des droits des femmes appartenant à une certaine minorité, tant sur le plan national qu'infranational, les prétentions déjà usées du Canada à la diversité et à l’égalité sont fragilisées encore davantage.


Corresponding author

Department of Political Science, Saint Mary's University, 923 Robie Street, Halifax NS, B3H 3C3, email:


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Sincere thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their comprehensive responses. I am also very grateful for the comments made on the initial version of this paper by Mireille Paquet and Denis Saint-Martin, as well as the subsequent efforts and support of the guest editorial team and Journal editor, Graham White.



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Gender versus Culture Debates and Débâcles: Feminisms, Interculturalism and the Quebec Charter of Values

  • Alexandra Dobrowolsky (a1)


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