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2019-MAR/APR: Canada:
Proposed Quebec government
ban on religious clothing by
teachers & other public workers
:

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2019-MAR/APR: Bill 21: The Government of Quebec has again proposed restrictions on the clothing that civil servants may wear:

This is the government's fourth attempt to pass a bill that bans the wearing of religious symbols and clothing for:

  • "Any public employee who carries a weapon, including police officers, courthouse constables, bodyguards, prison guards and wildlife officers;

  • Crown prosecutors, government lawyers and judges;

  • School principals, vice-principals and teachers." 6

new government employees in schools, the courts, and law enforcement. Present employees would be exempted from the ban. However it would apply to present-day employees if they are appointed to new positions, or in the case of school teachers, if they switched to a different school board. It includes "not withstanding" clauses that allows local governments to override some constitutional-guaranteed federal and provincial constitutional rights. This bill would restrict teachers; \judges; bus drivers; lawyers; prison guards; and doctors, dentists, and midwives in public institutions. 6,7

It is often referred to as an "anti-Hijab bill." However it would restrict clothing among government employees in "positions of authority" of all faiths. It would prohibit them from wearing Sikh turbans, Christian crosses, Muslim hijabs, Jewish yarmulkes, Wiccan five-pointed stars, and other religious jewelry.

The text of the bill has been posted on the CBC News web site. 7

The bill has raised a great deal of opposition. On APR-07, Thousands attended a march in Montreal in protest. Some held signs with messages like:

  • No one tells women what they can wear" and

  • "It's what's in my head, not on my head, that matters." 1

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said:

"It's unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion." 1

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said:

"The proposed legislation will affect Muslims more than other groups as they are the fastest growing religious group." 5

Webmaster's comment:

I am a loss to understand Wiseman's statement. Muslims currently represent about 3% of Quebec's 8.3 million people. It would seem that the group most affected by the law would be persons of the majority religion, which is still Christianity.

In contrast, Quebec's Premier, Francois Legault, said said that the bill would reinforce gender equality in Quebec. He said:

"I think at this point in Quebec in 2019, people who are in an authority position, which includes teachers [shouldn't wear religious symbols]. I think it's reasonable. It's fair. We have to think about what's best for our children." 1

Legault's political party, the Coalition Avenir Québec hopes to have the bill passed into law by mid-2019-JUN.

Bertrand Lavoie, a researcher at the University of Sherbrooke said:

"Quebec is torn because it shares a long history and language with France — which along with Denmark, Belgium and Austria has banned face-covering garments — but it's also heavily influenced by North American culture. ... What's unique to Quebec is that these two concepts of secularism are facing off in the public sphere, among politicians, academics, lawyers and even judges." 5

If the bill becomes law, then it would violate the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). 4 Article 18 of the UDHR states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." 4

During the week of APR-15, municipal councilors will vote on a declaration stating that Quebec is already secular and has no need for additional legislation of this type.

In the past, Quebec was politically and culturally dominated by the Roman Catholic Church in areas like education and health care. They controlled the schools and many of the social agencies. However, the "Quiet Revolution" that started in the 1960's drastically reduced the role of the Church throughout the Province,

Paul Malvern, writing for the Culture Witness web site, said:

"... one of the biggest mysteries for me has always been how,decades back, Quebec could have gone from being one of the most Catholic nations on earth to becoming one of the most anti-Catholic areas of the planet -- a change that seemed to occur more or less overnight.

One day Quebec was an adoring elder daughter of Rome. The next day it was an anti-Catholic nightmare crawling with militant secularists determined to erase every last vestige of the Province’s religious past." 2

During the "Quiet Revolution," attendance at Mass on Sundays dropped from one of the highest percentages of any area of the world to less than 5% -- one of the lowest percentages. Most marriages and funerals are now secular. Baptisms have become rare events. In the Archdiocese of Quebec, the number of priests drop from 1565 (453 Catholics per priest) in 1966 to 634 (1676 Catholics per priest) in 2014! Between 2003 and 2014, approximately 400 churches -- mainly Catholic -- closed. This process of secularization showed up in a reduction in marriage rates, along with increases in rates of divorce, cohabitation, and births to unmarried women. 3

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Don Macpherson, writing for the Montreal Gazette, said that if the bill becomes law, it:

"... would have the effect of encouraging discrimination against Muslims, and weaken protection for the freedoms and rights of all." 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today:

  1. Tracery Lineman, "Quebec proposes ban on religious clothing for public workers", SFGATE, 2019-APR-13, at: https://www.sfgate.com/
  2. Paul Maven, "Falling from Grace - The Rise and Fall of the Quebec Catholic Church," Culture Witness, 2017-JUL-29, at: http://www.culturewitness.com/
  3. Don Macpherson, "Macpherson: How the CAQ anti-hijab legislation would affect all Quebecers," Montreal Gazette, 2019-MAR-22, at: https://montrealgazette.com/
  4. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "United Nations, at: https://www.un.org/
  5. "Proposal to ban hijab, religious clothing, ignites debate in Canada's Quebec," Associated Press, 2019-APR-14, at: https://www.dailysabah.com/ ("Sabah" is an Arabic word that means "morning."
  6. "Montrealers take to the streets to protest Quebec's proposed religious symbols ban," CBC News, 2019-APR-07, at: https://www.cbc.ca/
  7. "What's in Quebec's secularism bill: Religious symbols, uncovered faces and a charter workaround," CBC News, 2019-APR-07, at:https://www.cbc.ca/

Site navigation:

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2019-APR-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2019-APR-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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Go to the previous page, or return to the "Religious intolerance in Canada" menu, or choose:

To search this website:

Click on one of the links ^^ above at the < < left, or use this search bar:

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Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

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