The Quebec government is proposing to ban public workers from wearing religious symbols, such as a turban, hijab, kippa or crucifix, in the workplace. The ban would affect everyone from government workers and doctors to teachers and daycare workers. We asked our readers in Quebec how the ban would affect them. Here are some of the responses.
As a Canadian-Muslim woman, I proudly wear my hijab, a choice that is completely my own and not influenced by others. Wearing my hijab does not cause any physical or psychological harm to anyone so than why should I be forced to remove it, if I want a good job working in Quebec? Have we really become so intolerant and insecure of ourselves that even the sight of a religious symbol has become unbearable and strikes fear in our society? The proposed charter is an infringement on my basic rights as a human. What I choose to wear is my personal choice; a freedom I thought I had as a Canadian citizen by birth.
Hagirah Farooq, student, Longueuil, Que.
I think the proposed charter is excellent. I’m a high-school teacher and I find it very insulting to see a teacher that teaches science or ethics (the French course teaches common values and is an introduction to different religions in the world) wearing a hijab, for example. A teacher has to be neutral in front of their students, has to be equal with his or her co-workers, and more specifically has to respect the dress code of the institution he or she works for. If somebody believes in God, great, but they don't have to show it, especially when in a position of authority.
Jean Sebastien Tremblay, teacher, Montreal
It is part of who I am as a man and especially as a Canadian. I have long prided myself on the fact that as a Canadian I am free to openly practice my religion and to represent myself publicly as an adherent to my faith. It is also a point of honour before my son and daughters for them to see me going to work in my suit and religious cap. The proposed Charter is shameful. This would be a clear message that 'our kind' are not welcome in Quebec. We would likely consider leaving the province, if this charter of exclusion came into effect. Though it shouldn't matter at all, my wife and I are Muslim converts of English and French Canadian heritage respectively.
Peter Hughes, immigration law, Bromont, Que.
Why I choose to cover my hair in public is my business alone. It is important, however, that the government refrains from probing into my personal life and making assumptions about who I am based on what I wear. The term “religious symbol” is problematic on many levels, and a head scarf is part of my religious practice. It is important to me to exercise my right to practice any religion I want however I want, while at work and outside of work. I believe the proposed charter is reactionary, politically charged and polarizing.
Rabia Kurd, civil servant, Montreal
My Muslim skull cap is part of my identity and something I can not compromise on. Moreover, it is deeply religious for me and through it I believe I am fulfilling a religious duty. It is impossible to separate your work fully from your beliefs and convictions. Your brief system, religious or otherwise, drives your morals and ethics through all spheres of life. If the government’s intentions are pure and they want to safeguard their values and traditions then I understand the approach but feel it is myopic and counterproductive and could do more harm than any good. I am afraid of the consequences of dividing people on ethnic lines.
Ahmad Rashid, Engineering, Montreal
A turban is part of my religious attire. It is not acceptable for an adult male Sikh who practices his religion to be in public without a turban. The proposed charter is unconstitutional, divisive and discriminatory. It goes against the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Canadian Charter and the UN Charter. The charter would create two classes of citizens and potentially introduce discriminatory hiring practices. If individuals are forced to give up their religion because of economic necessities, it would be a sad day for democracy in the country.
Harjeet Bhabra, university professor, Montreal
I believe we are all equal and should not advertise our religion nor foist it on others. Religion is a private matter and we live in a secular society. The proposed charter reinforces my belief of inclusiveness and equality, which is what I think makes Canada great. I hope Canada follows Quebec’s lead.
Claude Germain, transportation, Montreal
It is important for me to wear a hijab to work as I am a practising Muslim and it is an important part of my faith. The proposed charter is both xenophobic and not representative, as I myself am a Quebecker, born and raised in Montreal (and did my studies in french) and am completely against these values. Also, I find these so-called "Quebec values" are essentially promoting prejudice and discrimination, and would likely spread into other establishments simply wanting to adhere to "Quebec Values." What a despicable and embarrassing proposal.
Kristyn Vlahakis, education, Montreal
I don't consider my clothing as a religious symbol. I consider my clothes as clothes, i.e. things to cover me. I cover more of my body than some people, that's all. It's just part of a spectrum of human behaviour. Right now, I'm retraining in my profession to get back after a long leave to raise my children. It's hard enough as it is, especially as a single mom. Now it seems as if I may not be allowed to work in my field.
Astrid LeJeune, health care, Gatineau, Que.
I understand the thinking behind it. This Charter of Values is - for the PQ - a way to show the separation between state and religion. However I don't agree with the creation of a charter because I don't think it is the right way to resolve the few extreme situations that would require common sense instead of legislation.
Andre Dula, public service, Amos, Que.
I am Buddhist and wear Mala beads during specific days of the year. It is important for me to feel free to present myself freely in the workplace, and my religious faith is a big part of whom I am. I find that it is important that my workplace reflects the multiculturalism of the society that we live in. It also helps to create a discussion in which we are able to get rid of prejudice and ignorance toward people and their faith. Most of the hatred in the world is based on ignorance of the other person we are in conflict with, we need to understand each other if we are to live in a truly free society. The proposed charter is one of exclusion that will make certain people feel attacked. I also think that it is a diversion tactic to make people forget about the current government’s poor record with jobs, education and other important infrastructures.
Sean Gardner, customer service, Montreal
I wear a ring with crucifixes and sometimes T-shirts with Christian slogans. To me, it’s all about freedom of expression and my own personal style of what I like to wear and what is important to me. Some people flaunt their fancy cars and wear brand names of clothing. Why can’t I flaunt and wear my religion? I think that the proposed charter of Quebec values is making people upset instead of uniting them. It is the new religion of fundamentalist secularism, no better and no worse than other extreme religions. How is Quebec’s promotion of forced compliance any different than the fanaticism it is so greatly opposed to?
Magda Grzechowiak, education, Montreal
Wearing a religious symbol shows the Quebec society has better tolerance toward different religions and diversity we are facing in the province. It is good to have the Charter of Quebec that unites all Quebeckers in one place, but it needs to be more inclusive and tolerant toward people with different beliefs.
Derek Lee, student, Montreal