The Parti Québécois is unveiling some of the details of its controversial charter of Quebec values tomorrow morning at the national assembly, and it hopes to get some support from opponents.
Last month, the PQ leaked some of the details of the proposed charter, igniting a firestorm of criticism from provincial and federal politicians.
But as a minority government, it will need support from either Coalition Avenir Québec or the Liberals in order to pass legislation to enact the charter.
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The provincial government said the charter is meant to promote religious neutrality in public institutions.
The plan is to ban civil servants from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and crucifixes while on the job.
But Premier Pauline Marois’s choice of words last week in explaining the basis for the charter and what the PQ hopes to accomplish with it generated even more backlash.
She was criticized for saying that female daycare workers wearing hijabs might incite children to practice religion.
Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said her comments showed "a lack of judgment and knowledge."
In response, the PQ attempted to soften Marois’s position by issuing a news release saying "the comments she made were, in no way, meant to be offensive."
Violation of right to practice religion: archbishop
The most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Montreal, Archbishop Christian Lépine, said banning religious symbols for public workers would be a violation of rights.
"I think it is a violation of the right to have a religion, and to be religious. Because it is not only about private religion, private life. It's also about public life," said Lépine.
He said such a charter would be neither respectful nor democratic and although he accepts that some people don't believe in God, he said non-religious values should not be imposed on everyone.
"Normally if you talk about a charter, it’s about a charter of rights that gives space to different belief systems, so in that sense I don’t see this as a charter, it’s more of a credo," said Lépine.
He said Christian symbols, such as the crucifix in the national assembly, acknowledge Quebec's heritage, though he would be open to a discussions about how they affect the inclusiveness of other religions.
Lépine said he has no problem with Catholic children being cared for by daycare workers who wear a Muslim hijab.
"I don’t think we have to be in the business to decide what people wear. People have their own way of expressing a belief," said Lépine.
The PQ is planning to provide a five-year exemption clause for municipalities, hospitals and post-secondary institutions that wish to allow their employees to continue wearing religious symbols on the job, according to reports in the Globe and Mail and La Presse newspapers.
Over the weekend, le Journal de Montréal reported that elected officials will not have to comply with the ban on religious symbols or dress.
A prior leak said that teachers, daycare workers, health-care professionals and people in authority will have to comply, and no PQ minister nor the premier has denied the leak.