Jean-François Lisée wants to ban religious symbols for daycare workers, teachers

The leader of the Parti Québécois wants to prohibit teachers and daycare workers from wearing religious symbols as part of a new plan that draws on elements from the party's failed secular charter.

Parti Québécois's new plan draws on elements of its failed secular charter

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée made identity a focus of his leadership camapaign. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The leader of the Parti Québécois wants to prohibit teachers and daycare workers from wearing religious symbols, as part of a new plan that draws on elements from the party's failed secular charter.

Jean-François Lisée said the measure would be applied gradually, and not to current employees.

The ban would also apply to any civil servant in a position of authority.

"Listen, when you work for the state you should have a duty of not showing your convictions," Lisée said Thursday in Quebec City.

Lisée made the proposal while outlining his party's new policy on secularism, immigration and the promotion of the French language.

He also wants to strengthen the French language ability of new arrivals, making sure economic immigrants have at least an intermediate level before coming to Quebec. A PQ government would create a new citizenship test.

At the same time, he pledged to depoliticize the immigration process, leaving it up to the province's auditor general to determine immigration quotas, as stated during the PQ leadership campaign.

Proposals go further than during PQ leadership bid

Lisée said a PQ government would table a bill within six months of taking power, that would:

  • Force civil servants and people accessing public services to do so with an uncovered face.
  • Ban the chador for public servants. The chador is a large piece of cloth wrapped around the head and upper body leaving only the face exposed, worn especially by Muslim women.
  • Ban any civil servant in a position of authority, including judges, prison guards and police, from wearing religious symbols.
  • The ban would also apply to primary and secondary school teachers and daycare workers, in a move that goes further than Lisée's position during the PQ leadership campaign.

Secularism debate, again

Lisée was a key proponent of the party's secular charter put forward by the PQ under former leader Pauline Marois. The charter was introduced in 2013 but not implemented after the party lost the 2014 election.

The proposed law sparked heated debate over individual rights and the role of the state and drew thousands to the streets in protest. 

A Quebec woman wearing a hijab takes part in one of the many protests in 2013 both for and against the proposed values charter. (Canadian Press)

Quebec's Liberal government has since introduced a bill of its own addressing the religious neutrality of the state.

The proposed law doesn't go nearly as far the PQ's 2013 proposal, seeking to force people offering or receiving a public service to do so with their face uncovered.

It has faced criticism from the opposition PQ and Coalition Avenir Québec.

Lisée made identity rather sovereignty a focus of his leadership campaign, when he called for a ban on the burka in public spaces and suggested the clothing could be used to conceal a weapon.

"I'm seeing that there are three enormous challenges for us Quebecers and the rest of the planet, in the 21st century," Lisée told CBC's Quebec AM during the leadership race.

"The first is global warming. The second is inequality, and the third is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism."

Watch: Lisée and the state of Quebec sovereignty

with files from Ryan Hicks


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