Public school teachers, principals to be banned from wearing religious symbols

Sources have told Radio-Canada the provincial government's secularism bill, expected to be tabled this week, will go further than was initially expected.

Sources have told Radio-Canada the CAQ's secularism bill will go further than initially expected

The Quebec government's intentions to regulate religious clothing has already drawn protests, including this one last fall in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Quebec public schools teachers and school principals will be prohibited from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab or kippa, under a bill likely to be tabled later this week in the provincial legislature. 

The long-awaited legislation from the Coaltion Avenir Québec government will extend the limitation on religious clothing further than initially expected, according to Radio-Canada. 

Sources familiar with the legislation said any public employee who carries a weapon won't be able to display religious symbols.

This includes not only police officers, but courthouse constables, bodyguards, prison guards and wildlife officers.

The ban also covers judges and Crown prosecutors.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who is also the government house leader, is expected to table the secularism bill on Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Radio-Canada is reporting the bill will contain a grandfather clause to allow an estimated 500 public sector workers to keep wearing their religious symbols.

The CAQ caucus was divided on the issue of whether to include the clause. MNAs from the suburban areas around Montreal, including Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, supported its inclusion, sources said. 

They were opposed by MNAs from Quebec City and rural Quebec.

CAQ hopeful bill will find support with PQ rivals

The bill is expected to be tabled on Thursday. In its current version, the regulations on religious clothing go well beyond the recommendations contained in the Bouchard-Taylor report on reasonable accommodation.

That report, based on a public inquiry held between 2007 and 2008, recommended preventing public officials who wield coercive power from wearing signs of their religious affiliation.

It did not recommend that ban include teachers or principals.

The CAQ is hoping the broader scope of the bill will attract support from the Parti Québécois. Premier François Legault is said to want to be able to claim the legislation has the support of a majority of the population.

Taken together, the popular vote scores of the PQ (17.1 per cent) and the CAQ's (37.4 per cent) add up to 54 per cent.

A federal Liberal MP from Montreal, meanwhile, expressed his opposition to the proposed measures.

Anthony Housefather, who chairs the Commons justice committee, shared a photograph on Twitter of a police officer from New Zealand wearing a hijab in solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

"This respectful gesture of support for the Muslim community would become impossible in Quebec if a ban on state employees holding positions of authority wearing religious symbols is adopted," the MP for Mount Royal tweeted.

With files from Radio-Canada's Martine Biron at the National Assembly


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