As a new voice (pun intended) in the Your Workplace family, I struggled with the topic I wanted to present in this column and how I wanted to introduce myself to you.
I’ll get to the headline later, but first a bit about me. I’ve been a writer for more than two decades, covering the very issues this magazine deals with. I have lived and worked on both sides of the border and have seen how work differs and is the same, for that matter, in many workplaces. I have written for TV, print, and online media and continue to write in the financial investment space and also in the HR and workplace environments. I am a Gen-Xer and so I grew up with technology but certainly not at the level of millennials or others currently entering the workforce. I don’t love social media, but I recognize its power and reach. I work from my home office while juggling a family — I am a dad and an entrepreneur. I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in issues about work but am by no means an expert. So I am a good listener, taking in information from you, the reader, the community, and industry to absorb it into my current knowledge base.
I’m not here on a mission. I am here to talk with you, and learn from you, about the issues you face every day, five (or more) days a week. Nothing gets done in the world without a conversation taking place first. And it is my hope to help get the conversation started or, at the very least, facilitate conversations about the topics that matter to you now and in the future. It is my guess that you have lots to talk about — educate me on what is driving the issues at your work. I also have ideas of my own that have not yet been talked about or need more consideration. In other words, our articles, opinion pieces, and roundtables should be a two-way street where we talk to each other. That conversation can only lead to valuable information and hopefully lessons we learn from each other to make our workplaces stronger, more efficient and morale-filled — and as un-soul-sucking as possible.
And now the topic: Something that struck me as worthy of my first column was the election results in Quebec this past October and how one immediate declaration will certainly stir up debate and change workplace environments (and not necessarily for the better). The new premier, Francois Legault of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), has said his government’s “secularism law” will prohibit public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. Mr. Legault said he would use the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to work around protections of religious practice and expression. The party, which is also imposing a values test and French-language test to immigrants, is showing its true colours and disdain for true diversity in the workplace or society.
For his part, the prime minister is telling the CAQ to tread gently with this issue. Unions representing government workers, who this law will likely affect the most, need to weigh in on this debate. Where do they stand on member freedoms and the rights of every Canadian to express their religious preferences, even in the workplace? The new provincial government is taking a risk by trying to re-shape public workplaces, not with regard to the reality of demographics in Quebec but to a standard based in their own desire to weaken inclusiveness. Those of us who help shape workplace culture every day should watch (and participate) in this debate with great interest. I know I will.