Canadian Jewish group: Religious symbols ban meant to drum up support for Quebecois secession

Quebec’s Jewish General Hospital indicates that it plans on ignoring the “prejudicial bill.”

November 24, 2013 20:13
2 minute read.
Montreal skyline

Montreal skyline 370. (photo credit: wikimediacommons)


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A controversial bill curtailing religious freedoms that has Canadian Jews up in arms is only meant to drum up support for Quebec independence, the Canadian Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

The government backers of a bill that would ban the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols” by public sector workers in Quebec “do not wish to have the legislation adopted in this legislative session,” David Ouellette, the Jewish umbrella group’s director for Public Affairs in Quebec wrote in an email exchange with the Post.

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Ouellette stated that he believes that the “minority government’s calculus is to use the proposed legislation in the next elections as a wedge issue, hoping it can rekindle nationalist sentiment and move into majority territory.”

The ban, which is part of a proposed Charter of Quebec Values being pushed by the separatist Parti Québécois, would essentially redefine the meaning of state secularism and has alienated local religious minorities, including Muslims Sikhs and Jews. The party has called for a revision of the province’s charter of rights and freedoms.

Pauline Marois, the Quebec premier, has denied such allegations.

The proposed legislation, she was quoted as saying by CTC News, was proposed to enhance “harmony” in the Francophone province.

While the Quebec Liberal party continues to oppose the measure, some members of the opposition faction have begun indicating that they believe that some restrictions on the wearing of religious symbols “make sense,” according to CTC News.

“The Quebec Liberals have indicated that their position is evolving and that they could favour a ban on religious symbols limited to people in positions of coercive authority such as police officers and judges,” Ouellette explained.

Despite this development, however, Ouellette maintained that “the legislation [is not] any closer to being adopted. There would still be a gulf between the government’s position and the opposition parties.”

The bill, recently renamed the “charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests,” provides for a five-year moratorium on implementation in some educational and medical institutions, should they apply.

However, CBC News reported, Quebec’s Jewish General Hospital has indicated that it plans on ignoring the “prejudicial bill.”

“If approved, this offensive legislation would make it extremely difficult for the JGH to function as an exemplary member of Quebec’s public health care system,” JGH Director Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg was quoted as saying.

“The JGH receives no complaints about the religious or cultural apparel of its staff,” Rosenberg said in a statement.

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