Quebec Proposes Ban On Religious Clothing

Opponents say the France-style ban would disproportionately affect those of certain faiths while curtailing religious freedoms.
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    Public employees are not be allowed to wear overt religious symbols at work, under the recently proposed charter of Quebec values. Minister in charge of the charter, Bernard Drainville, is featured speaking in Chambly, France in March 2011 (Photo/Parti Québécois via Flickr)

    Public employees would not be allowed to wear overt religious symbols at work under the recently proposed charter of Quebec values. The minister in charge of the charter, Bernard Drainville, is featured speaking in Chambly, France in March 2011 (Photo/Parti Québécois via Flickr)

    Quebec civil servant employees wearing articles of clothing specifically tied to their faith could no longer have the right to do so if the proposed charter for Quebec values goes through.

    Included in the list of banned items are large cross necklaces, turbans, hijabs, burkas and kippas, restricting the rights of those who wear such items in accordance with their religious faith. What’s not included in the list of overt religious clothing are small cross necklaces, rings with the Star of David or any earrings that include religious symbols, leading many to believe it’s an overt attack on those whose faith is more visible on the outside.

    If passed, the new charter of values would apply to a wide range of public employees, including judges, teachers, daycare providers, police officers and those working in hospitals. Anyone receiving state services would also be mandated to leave their face fully exposed.

    According to the CBC, the charter proposal seeks to amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, along with a limit on “conspicuous religious symbols.”

    The only justification given on behalf of the new proposals speaks to provisions that would not allow for a person’s face to be covered, with arguments stating a need for verification.

    While the proposed charter has received opposition by those who claim it restricts religious freedoms, others claim it’s all part of Quebec’s Premiere Pauline Marois’ efforts to create a rift between federal and provincial governments.

    “Madame Marois has a plan,” Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau said, according to the CBC. “She’s trying to play divisive identity politics because it seems to be the only thing that is able to distract from the serious economic challenges that we’re facing as a province and as a country.”

    Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui portrayed Marois as a woman on a personal mission — one that’s infringing on individual rights and the freedom of religion.

    “Ostensibly a lefty liberal feminist, she, too, makes the maddening assumption that Muslim women, including the Canadian-born and highly educated ones, are incapable of deciding for themselves,” Siddiqui wrote. “Some Catholics insist on saving pregnant women from abortion. Marois is out to save Muslim women from the scarf.”

    Last year, Marois shuffled around the idea of requiring all municipal election candidates to take a French language class. At the time, the idea was criticized as one that would never hold up to constitutional scrutiny — and it didn’t.

    It’s not expected that this attempt will hold up to constitutional muster, either. According to the National Post, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be argued by Marois as a move to promote the “concept of religious neutrality.”

    However, the Conservative government has stated it will legally challenge the charter if it goes through.

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