Quebec's Parti Quebecois government has finally presented details of their so-called Values Charter.
Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville addressed the media on Tuesday morning, outlining the proposed legislation which, if passed, would ban all public employees in that province from wearing overt religious symbols in public institutions.
"The state must be neutral because it must show the same respect for all religions -- regardless of their beliefs," Drainville said, according to the Canadian Press.
"This is measured, balanced. Quebec is increasingly a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. This is a great source of richness. It's also why we need clear rules."
As explained by CP, "the plan would apply to every public servant; civil authorities like judges, police, and prosecutors; public daycare workers; teachers and school employees; hospital workers; and municipal personnel."
There will, however, be a temporary opt-out clause in the case of hospitals, universities and municipalities where these institutions can adopt a five year renewable resolution to allow their personnel to wear religious symbols.
The legislation is expected to be introduced in the National Assembly this fall and rolled into Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which could potentially shield it from potential future legal challenges.
While the plan appears to be generally popular throughout Quebec, its caused consternation across the rest of the country.
Following Drainville's press conference, Tuesday, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney spoke to
reporters in Ottawa.
"Obviously the separatist government in Quebec would like to pick a fight with the federal government at any time and any issue but our focus will remain on the priority of Canadians namely job growth and long term prosperity," he said.
"We are very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society and that would affect the practice of their faith and we are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion, based on their deepest convictions.
"We will ask the Department of Justice — if these proposals become law — to closely review them and if it's determined a perspective law violates the constitutional protection for freedom of religion to which all Canadians are entitled we will defend those rights vigorously."
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had a much stronger rebuke.
"The text confirms our worst fears. We're categorical in rejecting this approach. Human rights don't have a best before date. They're not temporary and they're not a popularity contest," he told reporters during a NDP retreat in Saskatchewan.
"The NDP will be standing up foursquare against this project."
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau slammed Premier Marois.
"Madame Marois has a plan, she has an agenda, 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," Trudeau said at a press conference in Montreal.
"I trust and want to reassure Canadians that Madame Marois does not speak for all Quebecers when she puts forward an idea of forcing people to choose between their work and their religion. To set out an idea of second class Quebecers who would not qualify to work in public institutions because of their religion."
The federal leaders and minority groups can still hold out hope that the legislation won't pass through Quebec's National Assembly. As a minority government, the PQ will need either the Liberal Party or the Coalition Avenier Quebec to support the secularization plan.
Prior to Tuesday's announcement, the Montreal Gazette reported that the Liberals will not support the Charter under any circumstances while the CAQ said they might back it if specific amendments were made.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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