Montreal suburb passes resolution to defy religious symbols ban

Resolution comes in response to a proposed Charter of Quebec Values intended to redefine the meaning of state secularism.

December 10, 2013 18:44
1 minute read.
Head shown with Israeli flag design kippa

Head with Israeli flag kippa. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)

The Montreal suburb of Hampstead passed a resolution on Monday refusing to implement a measure that would ban public sector employees from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols.

The resolution – which passed unanimously, according to Canada’s CTV – comes in response to a proposed Charter of Quebec Values, which is intended to redefine the meaning of state secularism.

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Religious minorities and civil rights organizations have strenuously opposed the bill. However, according to the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs – an advocacy group representing a number of Canadian Jewish federations – the charter is only meant to drum up support for Quebec independence.

David Ouellette, the Jewish umbrella group’s director for public affairs in Quebec, told The Jerusalem Post last month that the members of the separatist Parti Quebecois, which is pushing the bill, “do not wish to have the legislation adopted in this legislative session.” Rather, he said, they want to “use the proposed legislation in the next elections as a wedge issue.”

Several institutions have already indicated their refusal to comply with the charter if it becomes law, but so far none have gone as far as Hampstead in codifying their opposition.

Several weeks ago, Montreal’s Jewish hospital made a highly publicized announcement that it planned on ignoring the “prejudicial bill.”

“If it becomes a law, we are not going to tell people that they can’t work for the town because they wear a kippa, hijab or a turban, or any other religious symbol,” Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg told CTV.

The town, his resolution asserted, refuses to be “complicit with hatred, racism and intolerance,” which the mayor described to the Canadian network as the “tyranny of the majority against the minority.”

“People who have strongly- held religious beliefs and who must wear these symbols... are not going to be able to work, so they’ll be kept at home, and I don’t think this leads to integration,” he added.

CTV also reported that Cote Saint-Luc, another Montreal suburb, held an interfaith holiday event featuring the lighting of a Christmas tree and a menorah in front of the town hall as a show of opposition to the bill.

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