Quebec’s new Premier is pushing for fewer religious symbols and more secularism on his patch – but insists on keeping a crucifix in the National Assembly.
Much to the consternation of Montreal’s Catholic Archbishop Andrew Bennett, François Legault, above, leader of the right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), insisted the crucifix in question “is a symbol of the province’s heritage ― and not a religious sign.”
Bennett is outraged:
To say that the crucifix, the instrument of our salvation, is simply a symbol – that’s an insult to every faithful Catholic, every faithful Christian in this country.
Legault has offended Muslims and Jews as well, for the CAQ has promised to introduce legislation that prevents teachers, police officers, judges and certain other government employees from wearing religious items such as hijabs, kippas, crucifixes and turbans.
Secularists can’t be too pleased either.
Ihsaan Gardee, above, Executive Director of the Ottawa-based National Council of Canadian Muslims said that many Muslim public servants are “incredibly worried” about what such a law would mean for them:
If it went into effect, it would drastically change the ability of many regular Muslim Quebecers to exercise their most basic rights … and to make a living for themselves. Worse, we know this law won’t only affect Muslims; we’re similarly worried about public servants who wear the turban and kippa too — this law would be an attack on us all.
The religious symbols ban is meant to promote the separation of church and state and foster secularism in public spaces.
Bennett called the CAQ’s proposed ban an “unacceptable” violation of people’s religious freedoms.
Jewish Canadian leaders have also spoken up against the proposed ban. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a national advocacy group, said in a statement that:
Religious neutrality should be imposed on public institutions, not on individuals.
On Thursday, teachers at a high school in Westmount, Quebec, held a rally to oppose the CAQ’s plans. Some teachers at the school told the CBC they started wearing religious symbols to work in reaction to the CAQ’s election.
The Parti Québécois, another provincial political party, proposed a similar ban on public servants’ wearing religious symbols in 2013. That bill never passed.
Ihsaan Gardee said that the failure of the 2013 initiative demonstrates that:
Just because a law is popular doesn’t make it principled. While these kinds of [laws] are often pitched as a means of ensuring secularism, they actually undermine the very essence of the equality of rights that secularism seeks to affirm by discriminating against certain people because of how they may choose to dress.