We are Madeleine Parent’s close friends and family. We are also feminists, trade unionists and organizations, and we have fought shoulder to shoulder with her for social justice. We are writing today to express our profound disappointment concerning the gratuitous reference to Ms. Parent in the Charter of Quebec Values.
As Donna Mergler (an activist academic who has known Madeleine Parent since childhood) and Andrée Lévesque (a historian and author of a book on Madeleine’s life) have stated: “It is regrettable that, in order to garner support for its plan and defend its positions, the government is using the names of people who are no longer with us.” (Le Devoir, September 18, 2013)
According to the Charter of Quebec Values, “Quebec women of all origins and belief systems must enjoy the same rights, the same respect and the same opportunities for success as do men.” However, further on, the document quite obviously opens the door to discrimination. The idea, for example, that a highly competent and skilled woman could lose her job in the public service because she wears a hijab, would have horrified our friend. Indeed, Madeleine fought ardently alongside these same women so that their full rights as intelligent, worthy and competent citizens could be recognized.
Madeleine valued differences in other people. She always sought to know them better and to remove obstacles to democratic and social participation. She fought in solidarity with First Nations groups, cultural communities and racialized people to face down both systemic and State-imposed discrimination. And she was on the front lines defending the rights of all men and women to a decent job in a non-discriminatory, healthy and safe environment. This was her life’s work.
Therefore, we hereby request that Madeleine Parent’s name be removed from any statement associated with the charter. Neither she nor the other pioneers of feminism should bear any responsibility for this government’s actions.
Cynthia Kelly, friend and neighbour; Réjeanne Priestley, friend and partner in struggle since 1950; Judith Newman (born in 1943), a friend since I was a child; Élise Boyer (born in 1944), a friend since I was a child; Anne Powell, cousin of Madeleine; Deborah King-Powell, cousin of Madeleine; Lynn McDonald, co-activist in the women’s movement since 1972; Rose Marie Whalley, La Voix des Femmes; Madeleine Bachand, friend and partner in struggle since 1980; Ellen Gabriel, Mohawk of Kanehsatà:ke, Aboriginal human rights activist; Martin Duckworth, filmmaker and friend since 1985; Marguerite Taillefer, friend since the 1980s; Shree Mulay, feminist friend and admirer of Madeleine; Laurell Ritchie, longtime colleague in the union and feminist movements; John Lang, longtime colleague in the union movement; Michèle Asselin, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec from 2003 to 2009; Judy Rebick, former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women; May Chiu, lawyer and Chinese community activist; Irène Ellenberger, activist and trade unionist; David Fennario, Montreal playwright and actor; Anne Caines, friend and community organizer; Cécile Latizeau, neighbour and friend; Christine Paré, friend; Elvira Flores, friend; Marilyn Keddy, friend; Ghislaine Patry-Buisson, friend from Lachute; Blanche Roy, feminist and trade unionist; Bill Clennett, friend and human rights activist; Jarrett Rudy, professor of history, McGill University; Marjorie Griffen Cohen, professor of political science, Simon Fraser University, and longtime friend; Mela Sarkar, secretary of public relations, South Asian Women’s Community Centre; Dolores Chew, president of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre; Diane Shea, friend and member of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre; Viviane Michel, president of Quebec Native Women; Fiel Salazar, president of the Filipino Women’s Organization in Québec; Tess Tesalona, Immigrant Workers Centre (of which Madeleine was honorary president); Tess Augustin, Migrante Canada; Marie Boti, founding member of Women of Diverse Origins; Alexa Conradi, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec; Judith Murray, Terra Images; Rahul Varma, artistic director, Teesri Dunya; Dipti Gupta, Teesri Duniya