Québec solidaire promises to dismantle Bill 21 and allow religious symbols

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois says his party, if elected, will challenge the secularism law in Quebec’s highest court.

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Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Québec Solidaire said his party would drastically rewrite Quebec’s Bill 21 and allow teachers, police officers and other officials in positions of authority to wear religious symbols at work.

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With provincial elections three months away, the party is also proposing to challenge the law in Quebec’s highest court, arguing that it violates the province’s bill of rights.

“We believe that secularism, which is an important value in any democratic society, should apply to institutions and not to individuals,” Nadeau-Dubois said in an interview Monday.

“No one should be prevented from doing a job because of their beliefs, that’s something we appreciate. That is why, if we are the next government of Quebec, we will amend the bill to ensure that everyone can work in the public sector, regardless of their beliefs and whatever religious symbols they wear.”

Passed in June 2019, Bill 21 prohibits certain public servants in positions of authority, including judges, police officers, prosecutors, and public primary and secondary school teachers, from wearing religious symbols such as a hijab, turban, crucifix, or kippah at work. .

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Prime Minister François Legault has argued that Bill 21 is a moderate law that most Quebecers want and that allows all citizens, as well as most public employees, to wear whatever they want in public.

The law passed by a 73-35 vote in the National Assembly, with the majority of the Legault Coalition Avenir Québec and the Parti Québécois voting in favor and the Liberals and Québec solidaire voting against.

However, Québec Solidaire never made it clear what they would do with the law. In January, the party announced in a two-day caucus that it would change Bill 21 to allow women and men of all faiths to wear religious symbols while teaching.

Nadeau-Dubois said the party has now decided to draw up its plans because it is “important to be transparent with the public on the eve of the election.”

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Québec Solidaire does not intend to make the secular debate a mainstay of its election campaign, he said, preferring to focus on climate change, housing costs and ways to deal with inflation.

As for Legault’s view that Bill 21 reflects the values ​​of Quebecers, he said, “I never fully understood the link between Quebec’s values ​​and its restrictions on religious symbols for a handful of jobs in the public sector. I think there are many good reasons why we should be proud of Quebec: our history, our culture and our environment, for example.

“But the fact that we prohibit a woman who wears a headscarf from being a teacher, I don’t see how it relates to being proud to be Quebecois.”

Québec solidaire would maintain the bill’s regulations specifying that public services must not be provided with a face covering. For example, Nadeau-Dubois said, public services like teaching a class or a police officer dealing with a citizen should be done with their faces uncovered for safety or practicality.

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“It is common sense that someone who is teaching in a school in Quebec should have their face uncovered,” he said. “And citizens should legitimately expect to be able to identify the police officer speaking to them.”

The party says it would challenge Bill 21 in the Court of Appeal, Quebec’s highest court, to determine whether it contravenes the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

“This charter was legitimately adopted by the Quebec National Assembly; it is one of the main pieces of the Quebec social contract, and the people deserve to know if this charter respects it,” said Nadeau-Dubois. “Unfortunately, the CAQ has used the exception clause to protect its examination by the Quebec courts.”

Québec solidaire would not renew the use of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield Bill 21 from the courts, he said.

Additionally, if elected, Québec Solidaire will change legislation so that public funds are no longer used to finance religious schools in the province and will eliminate the tax exemption for religious organizations.

“These are real rules to make sure church and state are separate,” he said.

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