Quebec passes secularism bill

The law banning goverment employees wearing religious symbols will only apply to new employees (CNS/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence)

A new law in Quebec, Canada, prohibits the wearing of religious symbols or clothing by some government employees, including public school teachers, state lawyers, judges and police officers. Source: The Tablet.

Quebec’s government passed the bill, 75-35 on Sunday after long hours of deliberation. Some last-minute amendments concerning surveillance provisions made the law more stringent than anticipated.

The ban will only apply to new employees. Those who already had a job affected by this law will be able to wear religious symbols as long as they keep their current job.

Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced the bill in March. It sparked controversy and heated debate; many feared it might alienate some citizens, especially Muslim women. Most religious groups – including Christians and Muslims – were not invited to participate in last month's hearings at a National Assembly commission.

The government said it wished to strengthen separation of the state and religions, religious neutrality of the state, equality of all citizens and freedom of conscience and religion. This was the fourth attempt by a Quebec government in the past decade to pass a law about secularism. Recent polls have all showed that the bill had strong popular support.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said after its adoption that Quebecers have been expecting such a law “for a long time” and that they clearly want to prohibit religious symbols for “people with (state) authority.”

Opposition leader Pierre Arcand said this new “botched” law “removes” rights for people.

“Waking up with fewer rights for people that I love in a place that I love,” said Lisa Grushcow, a Montreal rabbi. “It’s worse than we had expected. There will be lots of legal challenges.”

The Quebec Assembly of Catholic Bishops said last week it feared the bill “will nourish fear and intolerance, rather than contribute to social peace.” Previously, the bishops said they agreed with the idea of promoting a secular state, but that it should not be at the expense of fundamental religious rights.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims announced on Monday it will legally challenge the new law.


Quebec government passes Canada's strictest secularism bill (The Tablet)

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