communal umbrella organizations filed a joint brief against a proposed Québécois
secular charter on Friday, arguing that it is a violation of their constituents’
The Federation CJA and the local branch of the Center
for Israel and Jewish Affairs submitted their brief to a provincial
parliamentary commission that is set to examine the measure, dubbed Bill 60,
“Our brief calls on the government to recall its bill because
it unduly violates the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” CIJA director of public affairs for
Quebec told The Jerusalem Post.
The advocacy organization also plans on
testifying before parliament regarding the measure.
Bill 60 would ban the
wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols” by public sector workers. The ban on
prominent crucifixes, hijabs, niqabs, burkas, turbans and kippot would apply to
groups such as teachers, police officers, civil servants, hospital staff, judges
and prison workers. Official documents give the nod to discreet religious
symbols, such as a small crucifix or a ring with the Star of David, but not to
veils, large crucifixes or turbans.
Quebec Minister of Democratic
Institutions Bernard Drainville has explained that he believes that “very
obvious symbols...send a clear message: ‘I am a believer and this is my
religion.’” The government’s website laid out the reasoning behind the new
charter, which would mandate amending the province’s charter of human rights,
explaining that “a number of high-profile religious accommodation cases have
given rise to a profound discomfort in Quebec” and that as a result, “to
maintain social peace and promote harmony, we must prevent tensions from
The prohibition on “the wearing of overt and conspicuous
religious symbols by state personnel... would reflect the state’s neutrality,”
according to the government website.
However, it appears that some public
displays of religion will still be permitted, including Christmas trees in
public offices and a large crucifix in the National Assembly.
offices will be closed on the holiday.
The Federation CJA and CIJA
disagreed, writing lawmakers in their brief that the proposed charter is “a bad
solution to a nonexistent problem.”
Asserting the bill would constitute a
violation of civil liberty laws and of basic human rights, the Jewish groups
said the government was acting as if there was a problem while “no empirical
studies have been used to demonstrate a decline in the secularism or religious
neutrality of the state.”
“This framework marginalizes individuals of
minority faiths by undermining the principle of state religious neutrality,”
they averred, calling for the bill to be withdrawn.
high-profile medical and academic institutions stating they will not comply with
the ban should it become law, the Quebec Federation of Nurses’ Unions has stated
that it supports the measure, according to CBC News.
to this report.
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