New charter of 'Quebec values' may permit opting out

The government is looking at offering a way to allow some exemptions to the proposed Quebec secularism charter.

Que. Jewish group opposes proposed ban, says exemptions will cause division

Hospitals such as Santa Cabrini—which serves the Italian community—may choose to opt out of a proposed ban on wearing religious apparel in public institutions.

A representative of a national Jewish advocacy group says public institutions may have a way to opt out of a ban on wearing religious apparel as part of Quebec's proposed secularism charter.

Luciano Del Negro, vice president for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Quebec, says he met with the minister responsible for the charter, Bernard Drainville, earlier this week, who told him the government is looking at offering exemptions for some organizations.

"You're simply multiplying the points of conflict and contrast, and who is to say which institutions will opt out and which institutions will not opt out," said Del Negro.

Del Negro said Drainville confirmed the charter will likely be extended to the public sector, calling the Parti Québécois' plan a "solution in search of a problem." 

The province plans to introduce its bill for the charter during the autumn sitting of the national assembly, and many cultural groups fear that it could be extended to include a ban on wearing religious symbols in public workplaces such as government offices, hospitals, and universities.

Del Negro says hospitals such as Santa Cabrini—which serves the Italian community—or the Montreal Jewish General, may choose to opt out, which he says will divide people in Quebec.

"This is a means of reinforcing divisions or building ghettos rather than a level playing field," said Del Negro.