The Quebec government has released its proposals and rationale for a controversial charter of Quebec values, a key element of the Parti Québécois's election platform last fall.

Citing the "obligation to remain independent of religious authority," the draft documents say the government will legislate, for the first time, a firm separation of religion and state and will curtail "religious accommodations."

But there are several measures the government is not proposing, which has fuelled critics who say the PQ is using the language of inclusiveness and equality to couch an attack on immigrants and non-Catholics.

Here are five things the charter would do, and five things it would not.

Would

  1. Bar public sector employees — including everyone from civil servants to teachers, provincial court judges, daycare workers, police, health-care personnel, municipal employees and university staff — from wearing a hijab, turban, kippa, large visible crucifix or other "ostentatious" religious symbols while on the job. 
  2. Allow five-year opt-outs from the ban for certain organizations, but not daycare workers or elementary school teachers.
  3. Require that those receiving or providing government services uncover their faces.
  4. Exempt elected members of the Quebec legislature from the regulations.
  5. Amend Quebec's human rights legislation, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, to specify limits on when someone can stake a claim for religious accommodation.  

Wouldn't

  1. Remove religious symbols and elements considered "emblematic of Quebec's cultural heritage." That includes: the crucifixes in the Quebec legislature and atop Mount Royal in Montreal, the thousands of religiously based geographic names (e.g. Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!) and the names of schools and hospitals.
  2. Ban public sector employees from wearing small religious symbols like a ring with a Star of David, earrings with the Muslim crescent or a necklace with a small crucifix.
  3. Eliminate subsidies to religious private schools. The Quebec government currently funds about 60 per cent of the budgets of most of the province's private schools, including parochial ones.
  4. Ban opening prayers at municipal council meetings, which was recommended by the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission report into cultural accommodation. The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in May that such prayers do not necessarily violate Quebec's current human rights legislation.
  5. Eliminate property tax exemptions for churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious buildings.

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