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Quebec Liberal Party leadership candidate Philippe Couillard speaks to delegates Sunday, March 17, 2013 at the leadership convention in Montreal. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Quebec Liberal Party leadership candidate Philippe Couillard speaks to delegates Sunday, March 17, 2013 at the leadership convention in Montreal. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Quebec Liberals appear to be closing door on banning religious symbols for public employees Add to ...

The Quebec Liberals appear to be slamming the door on the idea of banning religious symbols for public employees in the province.

In his most explicit comments on the issue to date, leader Philippe Couillard said Thursday that his party won’t support measures, reportedly being considered by the Parti Québécois government, to prohibit state employees from wearing religious articles in schools, daycares, hospitals and other State workplaces.

One Liberal MNA hinted Wednesday the party's position on the contentious issue was “ evolving.” But Mr. Couillard rejected the suggestion.

“A position by definition always evolves, but it never evolves by sidelining fundamental values and principles,” he said before a Liberal caucus meeting in Rivière-du-Loup.

Mr. Couillard said a ban on religious headgear for public servants “seems to me unreasonable and exaggerated.” The Liberals’ position would remain consistent with legislation, introduced but never adopted when the Liberals formed the government, that took aim at face veils by prohibiting anyone from covering their face when giving or receiving certain government services.

“Our position will not change,” Mr. Couillard said.

He added that he would have had no trouble if his now-adult daughter had been taught in school by a teacher wearing a chador, a head-to-foot religious covering. But had the teacher worn a face veil, “it would have offended me.”

Mr. Couillard made the comments Thursday morning after a Montreal newspaper, citing sources close to the leader, reported that the Liberals were prepared to support a ban on religious headgear for public employees in positions of authority, such as judges, police officers and prison guards.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to a Liberal MNA as a minister.

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