Quebec secularism bill panned


As well, the English Montreal School Board said it will not enforce the law and would instead allow teachers to wear religious symbols at work. Sonia Ethier said her union supports state secularism but doesn't believe teachers have the same "coercive authority" as judges and police officers.

The bill, which was tabled by the ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) in the province's National Assembly, aims to fulfill a CAQ election promise previous year.

The groups are asking that the bill be withdrawn, but they acknowledge the battle will be hard because the government has invoked the notwithstanding clause to block possible court challenges.

"Under the guise of secularism, this legislation is effectively a prohibition on wearing the hijab in the Quebec public service, given the overwhelming number of people impacted will be Muslim women", NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee said in a statement.

But it was swiftly panned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said: "For me, it's unthinkable (that) a free society would legitimize discrimination against anyone based on religion".

Even though there has been a massive public outcry, not only in Quebec but also nationally - and even with the English Montreal School Board, one of the largest teacher's union in Quebec, ready to file a legal challenge against it and who just yesterday announced they will not adhere to the ban, Premier of Francois Legault and his CAQ government have tabled Bill 21 today that would ban numerous provinces workers from wearing religious symbols. Additionally, he said, the sweep of people captured by the bill goes much further than originally anticipated. She said she fears they will be stigmatized and even subjected to violence in everyday life. Current teachers, according to the bill, can keep their symbols "as long as they exercise the same function within the same school board".

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

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. The wearing of the turban and the Sikh articles of faith is not optional for Sikhs and a ban on these articles of faith is, in effect, a ban on Sikhs in positions of authority.

"Are we prepared as a society to tell an aspiring police officer that she will never enjoy the privilege of protecting her community?"

"I remember how I felt when I was younger, when I felt I wasn't welcome", Singh told reporters in Ottawa. Visible minorities already have a harder time finding jobs in Quebec than the white francophone majority, he said, and the bill reinforces the idea that a person can be judged based on his appearance.