Renowned philosophy Professor to co-chair commission
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has named McGill University Professor Emeritus Charles Taylor to head a non-partisan commission that will explore and help frame the debate surrounding the reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural minorities. Professor Taylor will co-chair the commission along with Gérard Bouchard, a professor of sociology at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.
“The debate we're having in Quebec is one which is taking place in a number of societies in the West today,” said Taylor. “It's very important that it happen in a reasoned way and with a minimum of stereotyping and hostility. I see the Commission as a possible occasion to channel the debate and promote exchanges that will help us avoid some of the divisions that have arisen elsewhere.”
After a series of recent incidents in which Quebec’s traditional religious and cultural norms have clashed with those of newly arrived Quebecers, Charest opted for a formal investigation to settle the issue. The premier has asked the commission to hold public consultations across the province, outline the current situation and recommend ways to effectively accommodate religious practices within a framework of fundamental values including equality between men and women, the primacy of French and the separation of religion and state.
Professor Taylor, who joined McGill's department of political science in 1961 and its department of philosophy in 1973, is arguably Canada’s best-known philosopher. He is known for his work on morality, Western identity of individuals and groups and the political culture of modernity. He was educated at McGill (B.A.52) and at Oxford (B.A.55, M.A.60, D.Phil 61), where he studied under Isaiah Berlin and G. E. M. Anscombe. He succeeded Berlin as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford University and was for many years Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at McGill. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1995 and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2000.
Public hearings are set to begin next month, and the commission will have one year to report and submit recommendations to the National Assembly.