In preparation for Quebec legislation that would see religious symbols banned for public employees, Montreal city council is insisting that any kind of enforced secularism must be tolerant and inclusive.
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Last week, the borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, who wears a kippa—a Jewish skullcap—said nobody should be forced to make a choice between being an elected official and wearing a religious symbol on the job.
Lionel Perez, who filed the motion, says he does not oppose the creation of a secular charter. His motion outlines a version of secularism that is in line with Montreal's modern diversity.
"We want it to reflect what Montreal is, which is an open and tolerant society," Perez says.
'The idea of banning someone from being in a position of authority, like a teacher or a doctor, because they wear a kippa or a turban, is unconscionable' —Marvin Rotrand, city councillor
"Everyone has the right to be respected for their beliefs," he says. "We don't want the state to start dictating how to practice religion or what to believe in. That's what state neutrality infers, and that's what we wanted to affirm here today."
The motion passed unanimously at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
The motion essentially tells the Quebec government to "back off," according to city councillor for Snowdon, Marvin Rotrand.
"The idea of banning someone from being in a position of authority, like a teacher or a doctor, because they wear a kippa or a turban, is unconscionable," he says.
Rotrand says if the proposed charter of values passes at the national assembly, the city may try to opt out of some of its clauses.
Translation of the motion from French:
Motion in favor of a secularism representative of Montreal
Considering that the French community and a diverse range of cultures are at the heart of Montreal’s identity, history and richness;
Considering that, in accordance with the first article of the Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, Montreal is a place that promotes dignity, tolerance, peace, acceptance and equality among all citizens;
Considering that the debate on secularism and on the question of the role and obligations of the government in secular society has made headlines several times for its impact on the lives of Montrealers;
Considering that it would be ideal to avoid anything that might risk our ability to live together in harmony and to unite us behind the unique qualities that define Montreal;
Considering that the neutrality of the state is an essential part of a democracy that assures its citizens freedom of thought and religion, and that guarantees the state will not impose any spiritual, political or religious ideals on its citizens;
Considering that this principle of state neutrality is an integral part of the right to equality among all citizens protected by the charter of rights and freedoms;
Considering that we are all share a common history and that no affirmation of secularism can ignore the historic and religious heritage of Montreal and Quebec;
Considering that the government of Quebec has announced its intention to present a charter of Quebec values and secularism, which would enact secularism in a pluralist society without creating two classes of citizens;
It is proposed by Lionel Perez …
That the city council affirms its belief in the universal ideals that advocate for an inclusive secularism in order to create a public space that reflects Montreal and Quebec in the 21st century and that unites Montrealers of all backgrounds and beliefs.