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globe editorial

It's a good thing federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wants to be prime minister of Canada and not premier of Quebec.

Running for the National Assembly would present a quandary, in that Mr. Singh would be obligated to remove his turban for the photo on his candidate form. Hey, it's in the rules.

The regulation, which applies only to provincial elections, stipulates that all candidate registrations must be accompanied by a photograph showing "a full frontal view of the candidate from the shoulders up, head uncovered."

It's not just about turbans. The rule also applies to hijab-wearers, to Jews who sport a kippah and presumably to politically active Catholic nuns. Ball caps and tiaras are also banned, for the record.

Lest anyone think the barrier is merely theoretical, it dissuaded at least one prospective Muslim candidate, Fatimata Sow, from running for the provincial Green Party in 2014.

That's an outrage, or it should have been – Ms. Sow decided not to go public at the time. But here's another: The Directeur général des élections du Québec, the provincial office that oversees elections, has received a formal application to make an exception to the rule – or, to use the political argot of the moment, a reasonable accommodation – for an unnamed Muslim candidate ahead of next fall's provincial election. It has refused to grant it.

A DGEQ spokesperson says the independent agency is reviewing its regulations but doesn't have the legal power to unilaterally amend them. It can propose fixes to the Speaker of the National Assembly, and may well, but it's ultimately up to legislators to actually make them.

The rule was enacted in 1989, so it's outdated in addition to being anti-democratic and almost certainly unconstitutional. The National Assembly should reflect the full diversity of Quebec society – this rule prevents that, and no one has cared enough to change it.

Reasonable accommodation is a third rail in Quebec politics, and the major parties don't want to touch the issue. But this regulation is out of step with Canadian society, and politicians need to find the courage to act. The absurdity has lasted long enough.

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