Firm limits on religious symbols in the public service
In a province where so many towns and streets begin with the word “Saint,” the Quebec charter’s most controversial section would prohibit the wearing of “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols in the public service. Out with turbans, hijabs and large crosses; only small pieces of jewellery would be allowed. The province’s Catholic heritage is largely safe, however, with the thousands of publicly maintained crosses “grandfathered” from new rules. Christmas trees at office parties would also be allowed.
No religious proselytizing
In the same way that public servants are barred from engaging in partisan activity at work, the proposed charter would bar them from engaging in any form of religious proselytizing. Employees from bus drivers to judges would be told not to share their religious beliefs or opinions with the public.
A ban on veils
Faces will need to remain uncovered while people both provide and receive services from the government. Women wearing niqabs have had to remove their veils to receive ballots at Quebec polls since 2007. In 2010, the then-Liberal government introduced a similar bill requiring people to bare their faces when they interacted with the government. That bill did not pass as the opposition felt it didn’t go far enough.
Opt-outs and special cases
The law would allow individuals to apply for special exemptions, such as asking for time off on religious holidays. The heads of the province’s colleges, universities and municipalities could also pass resolutions allowing personnel to continue wearing religious symbols, with the exception of face coverings. The law would not apply to elected officials.
Amend Quebec’s main rights charter
To protect the proposed Charter of Quebec Values from future legal challenge, the provincial government plans to write the law into the province’s existing Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Adopted in 1975, that charter was last modified in 2008 with language guaranteeing the equality of men and women.