School board vows to disregard Quebec bill restricting religious symbols

Olive Hawkins
March 31, 2019

The Quebec government has introduced a bill that would ban the wearing of religious symbols by public workers.

In the face of criticism from civil rights groups and organizations representing religious minorities, the bill declares the law will have effect "notwithstanding" protections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and "despite" protections in the provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Sikhs living in Canada have mainly objected on the section of bill that outlaws wearing of religious symbols by public workers.

"My objective with the bill on laicity is to achieve consensus, I accepted to make certain compromises". "I already told my MNAs and ministers that we have to maintain a respectful tone with our adversaries".

The bill, titled "An act respecting the laicity of the state", has been proposed by the right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, elected previous year with pledges to restrict immigration and cement secularity.

"We need to be the least divisive possible", concluded the Premier.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government has tabled its secularism bill today, fulfilling an election promise to ban many public sector employees from wearing religious symbols at work.

The Liberals, who are in opposition in Quebec now, insisted that the proposal was too extreme, while the country's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also among those who criticised the plan.

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The board's resolution came a day after a major teachers' federation spoke out against the planned legislation and filed a lawsuit to stop government attempts to count the number of teachers who wear religious symbols.

"It is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion", Trudeau told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The bill includes the notwithstanding clause to shield it from constitutional challenges.

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Legault's CAQ party now holds a significant majority in the National Assembly, meaning Bill 21's passage is likely a formality.

The English Montreal School Board has already said it will refuse to comply with any legislation restricting the wearing of religious symbols. Additionally, he said, the sweep of people captured by the bill goes much further than originally anticipated. Practicing Sikhs, both men and women, wear the Sikh articles of faith such as the turban at all times as part of their daily lives as reminders of the principles of equality, service and spirituality. "It's not something I wear just inside", she said.

Manveer Singh, president of SAD (A) Quebec said that Quebec Bill was not acceptable.

"Quebec was our home and the government of Quebec could not over ride Canadian Charter", he added.

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