Published: Sun, March 31, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Canadian Province Mulls Banning Public Employees From Wearing Religious Symbols

Canadian Province Mulls Banning Public Employees From Wearing Religious Symbols

The government said the measure - combined with the removal of a cross installed in the main chamber of the national assembly in 1936 - underscored Quebec's break with religion a half century ago, when it rejected the Catholic Church's powerful influence in local politics. But it contains a provision permitting current employees in those positions to continue wearing religious symbols.

The bill sponsors said the objective is to affirm religious neutrality in a manner that "ensures a balance between the collective rights of the Quebec nation and human rights and freedoms", according to the Canadian Broadcasting System (CBC).

WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: "We are deeply disappointed that the CAQ has introduced legislation banning the wearing of religious clothing and symbols in Quebec".

Titled, "An act respecting the laicity of the state", Bill 21 aims to fulfil a Coalition Avenir Quebec election promise. Public servants in positions of authority such as police officers, judges, prosecutors and also school teachers will be included in the ban.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his opposition to the legislation on Thursday.

"The proposed legislation is a solution to a problem that does not exist- there is no evidence to suggest that individuals wearing items of religious clothing are negatively impacting anyone in society".

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Quebec's Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, meanwhile, has called for "calm" discussions about the proposal, inviting people "to make their comments in a respectable way".

Haniyfa Scott, who teaches kindergarten in Montreal and wears a hijab, told CTV News Channel Thursday that she had received significant support from parents and fellow teachers. "What I want to do is rally the most Quebecers possible", says Legault, on the CAQ website.

There is also a grandfather clause, exempting school administrators, teachers, peace officers, lawyers, justices of the peace and some other legal officers for as long as they remain in the same position with the same employer.

Thursday's bill invoked the rarely-used "notwithstanding clause" in an attempt to override future legal challenges to the legislation.

The previous Liberal government adopted demands for receiving public services but they were suspended after some groups argued that the restrictions violate the country's laws, providing for freedom of conscience and religion. "This just sends the message to people who wears religious symbols that we are secondary citizens", she said in a phone interview. However there wouldn't be a "strip search to check if the person is wearing a religious sign", he said. She says she would never allow her religious beliefs to affect her teaching, any more than she would consider removing the turban that never leaves her body.

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