Is it likely that Hérouxville, set in Quebec’s overwhelmingly white and francophone heartland, will ever witness the stoning of a Muslim woman? Not really, mused Gérard Bouchard, the co-chair of a provincial commission looking into the reasonable accommodation of minorities at an October 2007 public hearing in Trois-Rivières, 30 minutes from the town. “We’re pretty far from stoning here,” he said.
Bouchard was speaking to Andre Drouin, a member of the Hérouxville town council which, in January 2007, created a national firestorm by adopting a code of conduct that banned the stoning of women and covering of faces, among other practices. Yet Drouin held his ground in the face of Bouchard’s skepticism. “Stoning takes place, and some of those people will want to come here. It’s important to be preventive.”
Exchanges like these have consumed the province since Premier Jean Charest formed the Bouchard-Taylor commission in February 2007, largely in response to the public firestorm over the Hérouxville news.