The Quebec government's proposed Values Charter seems to have caused some consternation across the country.
Details of the proposed legislation — leaked to media last week — suggest that all public employees will be banned from wearing religious symbols in public institutions. While specifics of the plan have yet to be officially released, some reports suggest that visible crosses, yarmulkes, hijabs, niqabs, burkas and turbans would all be prohibited.
While it seems most Canadians are outraged, most Quebecers support the new rules regarding religious accommodation.
According to a Forum Research poll obtained by the Montreal Gazette on Sunday, 58 per cent of Quebec residents approve of the proposed rules versus 33 per cent who disapprove.
Conversely, in the rest of Canada, 42 per cent approve of it and 47 per cent don't.
The poll is good news for Premier Pauline Marois' minority PQ government that needs the support of opposition parties for the Charter to pass through the legislature.
On Sunday, the Premier began delivering her 'Charter pitch' telling a crowd of PQ faithful that the new rules will have a unifying effect on the province.
"What divides Quebeckers is not diversity, it is the absence of clear rules so that we can move onward in harmony," she told a crowd of young PQ delegates, according to the Globe and Mail.
"To recognize secularism as a Quebec value is to take cognizance of the evolution of a people which, for the past half century, has become increasingly secular and has taken the confessional character out of its institutions."
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It's an argument, however, that clearly doesn't wash with the province's minority groups.
Salam Elmenyawi, who heads the Muslim Council of Montreal, says that the Muslim community feels as if it's being targeted by the PQ government.
"This is a slippery slope in a society that is supposed to be open and understanding. [The PQ] is turning it into a closed fascist society that is totally un-Canadian and totally un-Quebec," he told Yahoo! Canada News during a telephone interview last week.
"It looks like they're not even listening to us. So, it's a bigoted attitude in a way. They're not even listening to our concerns, they're not even discussing it with us."
Elmenyawi said his group — which represents over 40 Islamic institutions in the Montreal region — will continue to make their voices heard and, if necessary, fight the new rules in the courts.
"These kinds of laws are divisive and enforces negative stereotypes about minorities especially religious minorities," he said.
"This caters to their agenda. The Parti Quebecois is separatist party. So they always try to bring these kinds of issues…these manufactured crises. They try to bring it so they create the winning conditions for separation.
"This infringes on our freedom of religion, freedom of culture which is part of our constitutional rights in Canada."
Elmenyawi might get a little help from the opposition Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) which holds the balance of power in Quebec's legislature.
But only a little.
According to the Globe and Mail, CAQ leader Francois Legault held a press conference on Monday morning, suggesting that only individuals in positions of authority — like judges, police officers and teachers — should be prohibited from wearing religious symbols. But he says doctors and daycare workers should not.
The other major party in Quebec, the Liberal party, has put together a committee to come up with a position on the matter.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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