Côte Saint-Luc says it won't enforce religious symbol ban

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said he and his colleagues believe it is their job to represent what they believe is the majority view in Côte Saint-Luc.

'We need to stand up for what we believe is right,' said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said he and his colleagues believe it's their job to represent what they say is the majority opinion on the proposed religious symbols ban. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

The City of Côte Saint-Luc is taking a stand against the Legault government's religious symbols ban, even though it doesn't yet exist.

Last Monday, the city council adopted a unanimous resolution saying it will "vigorously oppose" the adoption of any law that would ban provincial civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.

Any such law would be "flawed and unconstitutional" and violate Côte Saint-Luc's values, the resolution says.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said the city wanted to be proactive in voicing its opinion about the proposal, and that reaction to the city's move has been overwhelmingly positive.

He said he and his colleagues believe it's their job to represent what they believe is the majority view in Côte Saint-Luc, even if the law isn't supposed to apply to municipal employees.

"We need to stand up for what we believe is right," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Côte St-Luc is saying it will oppose the Legault government's religious symbols ban- even though it doesn't yet exist. The city council unanimously passed a resolution last Monday saying the policies were against the city's values. We speak with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. 6:51

Brownstein said municipalities are the closest level of government to the people, and as such, they are in the best position to take a community's pulse on an issue.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has said he wants to have the law in place by the summer.

A symbolic gesture?

City councillor Dida Berku said the resolution is very similar to the one the city passed in response to the Parti Québécois's Charter of Values.

She pointed out there is a cross on the mountain and at city hall, and people swear on the bible in court.

"We live in a world where religious symbols are present. I don't see why a person can't wear a scarf or a cross or a kippah," she told Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin.

When host Alain Gravel suggested the resolution is purely symbolic because the law wouldn't apply to municipal employees, Berku replied that we don't yet know what the final definition of authority figure will be.

Despite less than favourable coverage of the resolution in the Journal de Montréal, Brownstein said he isn't worried that the debate could get ugly.

"We feel it's important to be leaders on this issue because it's for all Quebecers."

He said he feels the theoretical use of the notwithstanding clause to implement the ban would not be appropriate, and the city will disregard the use of that clause if it comes to it.

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