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Canadian News Mar 26, 2019 2:02 PM EST

Quebec authority figures will likely not be allowed to wear religious symbols, here’s why

The Coalition Avenir Québec government led by Premier François Legault are expected to table the bill on this topic Thursday.

Quebec authority figures will likely not be allowed to wear religious symbols, here’s why
Ali Taghva Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

Public school teachers, principals, judges, and police officers will likely be banned from wearing religious symbols while at work, according to sources which have spoken to Radio-Canada, the French division of the CBC.

Editor’s Note: The Radio-Canada article does not clearly define who the sources are.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government led by Premier François Legault is expected to table the bill on this topic Thursday.

Radio-Canada has reported the bill will contain a grandfather clause to allow roughly 500 public sector workers to keep wearing their religious symbols and is furthermore expected to invoke the notwithstanding clause, in order to bypass potential constitutional challenges.

The notwithstanding clause allows Parliament or provincial legislatures to temporarily override certain portions of the Charter, in effect bypassing citizen rights. Once the clause is used, it shall cease to affect five years after it comes into force or on such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration. The clause can be re-enacted every five years.

So why is the Quebec government choosing to do this?

It comes down mainly to Quebec’s fascinating history which makes the policy a trendy one for both Francophone Quebecers on the left and the right.

For Quebecers who fear cultural loss, the removal of different religious items from the public service likely serves as another win for the Quebecers who are mostly Catholic and far less affected.

While those who felt oppressed under the Catholic church find it as a well-needed move to assure freedom from religion.

The topic has so much cross-politics appeal in Quebec that even the previous Liberal government attempted to collect information regarding just how many members of the school system actively wore religious garments.

The Fédération autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE), has argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the Liberals and the current CAQ government violated Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms when they did this.

Members of the Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire have also been supportive of a ban. With the former first starting much of this debate by bringing forward the Charter of Values in 2014.

According to the CBC, a CROP poll taken between Nov. 14 and 19 found that roughly, “72 percent of Quebecers supported banning visible religious symbols for judges, 71 percent supported banning them for prosecutors and police officers and 65 percent backed extending the ban to public-school teachers.”

Alain Giguère, CROP’s president, told the CBC the results indicated unprecedentedly high levels of support for banning religious symbols.

“I think we can conclude that the average Quebecer really wants to remove religion from the public sphere, especially for people who hold positions of authority,” Giguère said.

CROP’s findings are based on an internet panel of 1,000 people.

With so much public support behind banning religious symbols from local Quebecers, it is perhaps no surprise that the Quebec Premier currently maintains one of the highest levels of approval for any Canadian Premier.

This level of support is an extremely important factor here as any bill with a notwithstanding clause requires popular support in order to remain after its five-year enactment.

With so much popular support, the bill could be reenacted regardless of which party wins in the next provincial election.

This cross-politics unity does not mean that every party in Canada supports what Quebec is doing. Federal Liberals have actively called out Quebec for the decision to move forward with a religious garment ban, with Anthony Housefather commenting that he hopes those who support such a ban reconsider.

The multiple topics listed by the Liberal MP show a potential showdown occurring in the future between Quebecers and the Liberal government over extremely sensitive issues.

With the SNC case also occurring at the same time, it will be interesting to see just how seriously the normally pro-diversity Liberal government responds when it so desperately needs many of the same voters to have a real chance at winning in 2019.

What do you think about this bill? Join the conversation by commenting below.

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