Québec Solidaire makes its opposition to secularism bill official

Québec Solidaire members positioned the party firmly against the Coalition Avenier Quebec's secularism bill on Saturday, voting to adopt an official stance opposing any restrictions on wearing religious symbols.

"Québec Solidaire can now be an organization that defends the rights of everyone without compromise," party member Eve Torres said after the vote.

The secularism bill, tabled Thursday, would ban public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.

In choosing this position, Québec Solidaire is dropping its traditional support for the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report, which suggested that judges, prosecutors, police officers and prison guards be barred from wearing religious symbols while on duty.

Party members rejected a second option Saturday that recalled the language of Bouchard-Taylor.

"We're very, very happy," said Sibel Ataogul, one of the founders of Québec Solidaire.

"We've chosen to be consistent with our values and equally with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which already protects against discrimination in Quebec."

Bouchard-Taylor 'no longer the way forward'

Earlier Saturday, Québec Solidaire's co-spokesperson Manon Massé said the Legault government's secularism bill goes "much too far."

"It would make a lot of people lose their jobs, a lot of people wouldn't be able to change jobs without giving up their rights," Massé said.

Bill 21 includes a grandfather clause to exempt public workers, such as teachers or school principals, from removing their religious symbols. But that clause would no longer apply if, for example, a teacher was promoted to a higher position.

"You understand, when the rights of our fellow citizens are attacked, that upsets us."

Party member Ismael Seck, 29, who was a candidate in the Jeanne-Mance–Viger riding in the provincial election, supported the winning option. He said banning religious symbols made some people feel like they don't belong in society.

Mathieu Dion/Radio-Canada
Mathieu Dion/Radio-Canada

"It's very sad for me because every human being wants to belong to society and be part of it," Seck said. "The more divided we are, there is more tension and conflicts.

Before the vote, Massé said some members felt the Bouchard-Taylor recommendations had "been chipped away over the years" and were no longer the way forward.

The provincial Bouchard-Taylor commission spent a year examining issues around reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural beliefs and practices, especially in Quebec's public institutions.

One of the report's co-authors, Charles Taylor backed away from a main recommendation in 2017. The other co-author, Gérard Bouchard, disagreed with him.

The Legault government claims Bill 21 is based on Bouchard-Taylor report, but it goes "much further," Massé said.