Here we go again. The Quebec provincial government is looking to ban certain provincial employees from wearing religious symbols.
As has been widely reported, François Legault, the recently elected Premier of Quebec, plans to use the notwithstanding clause, if it is necessary, to push through a ban on employees such as police officers, teachers and judges, from wearing religious symbols like the hijab, crosses, and kippahs while on the job.
If this kind of thing sounds familiar to you, it is because it was part of the controversial Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the Parti Québécois in 2013. However, that charter was unpopular in the province at the time and never passed. The party also lost the 2014 election, with some sources speculating this charter led to the downfall of that party’s government. If it was unpopular five years ago, you’d think it would still be an unpopular move today.
While I understand Quebec is a unique province, and the current government is looking to assert their secularism, I don’t see how the wearing of certain religious symbols could impair somebody from doing their job effectively.
In fact, in the case of teachers specifically, the wearing of any religious symbol could lead students to be curious about why the person wears it and about the customs of the religion, leading to an environment of tolerance for all religions.
In a country as rich in diversity as Canada, I think each province should be celebrating their religious, spiritual and ethnic diversity any time they can. It must also be noted that while they are looking to ban the wearing of these symbols, the government has said they will not remove a crucifix from the legislature. This sounds a bit hypocritical to me.
The government should also ask themselves, if they do decide to use the notwithstanding clause, if this is an appropriate use of the clause. Yes, as the Ontario government proved recently, with the pushing through of Toronto council cuts, provincial governments can use this clause to their advantage.
But, I feel this clause should not be used to 'fix' something that, as I noted above, is not even a large issue in the province, as most employees can do their job well while wearing religious items. Some even might do it better wearing them, as, for some people, their religion is an important part of their life and makes up a large portion of their personal identity, including their commitment to a solid work ethic.
I think the Quebec government should rethink this proposal and decide not to go through with it.
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Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy