New Quebec government open to allowing existing teachers who wear religious symbols to keep their jobs
But Coalition Avenir Québec has no intention of removing crucifix from National Assembly, spokesperson says
After a week of controversy, Quebec's incoming Coalition Avenir Québec government is opening the door a crack to compromise on its plan to ban some civil servants from wearing religious symbols.
The CAQ said last week it would be prepared to fire teachers who refuse to take off their hijab or kippa or other religious garb, drawing thousands to a protest march and raising concerns from Muslim women who feel targeted by the proposal.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, an MNA and spokesperson for the CAQ's transition team, said Tuesday the government would consider a clause that would allow teachers who currently wear religious symbols to continue to do so. New hires would be forced to comply with the ban.
François Legault's CAQ, which won a majority in last week's provincial election, has promised to introduce a law prohibiting civil servants in positions of authority, such as judges, police officers and prosecutors, as well as teachers, from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.
At a news conference, Jolin-Barrette said making such an exception is not the CAQ's preference, but it would be willing to hear the opposition's ideas about how to make the law more flexible.
The Parti Québécois also campaigned on a promise to impose a ban — but one that would only apply to newly hired preschool, elementary and high school teachers and not those who already hold a job.
Jolin-Barrette stressed, though, that the CAQ was "elected on a clear mandate" to put in place such a ban.
Crucifix will stay
Jolin-Barrette also said the CAQ has no intention of removing the crucifix that hangs behind the Speaker's chair in the province's National Assembly.
He argued there is no contradiction between the CAQ's plan to impose strict secularism rules on certain public servants and its desire to maintain the Christian symbol.
He said the crucifix, which has hung in the province's legislature since the 1930s, is part of "Quebec's heritage."
On Sunday, several thousand people gathered in downtown Montreal to denounce the proposed law, chanting "Legault has got to go," and "François, Quebec belongs to me."
With files from The Canadian Press