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RADIA: Let’s stand up for les Quebecois
The Quebec government has finally introduced details of its so-called values charter.
If the legislation ever passes, all public employees in that province would be barred from wearing overt religious symbols in public institutions. Judges, police officers, public school teachers and hospital workers wouldn’t be allowed to wear turbans, head scarves, veils, kippas and large crosses.
I think my colleague opposite and I agree that this is a political manoeuvre by Quebec Premier Pauline Marois. The policy has helped her minority government gain some popularity — particularly with the Francophones. It also creates a wedge issue between Quebec and the rest of Canada that could help the sovereigntists in a future referendum.
But what if she wins that elusive majority? Does anybody really think Premier Marois won’t try to pass her secularization plan?
I understand that there is a sentiment out there that immigrants to Canada should assimilate with regard to language and culture. To a certain extent, I agree.
But religion is a far different issue.
Section 2(a) of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that all Canadians have the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion.
To say that a Montreal-born Sikh doctor — who, because of his religious beliefs, is obliged to wear a turban — cannot work in a public hospital unless he takes off his turban is a clear contravention of Section 2a. It’s discrimination to say that a woman who wears a head scarf cannot work as a nurse, a teacher or a judge just because she won’t take it off.
Essentially, the Quebec government is giving an advantage to individuals who practise faiths that are less visible and disadvantaging religious minorities.
If the law passes, I hope the Stephen Harper government makes good on its promise to challenge it in the Supreme Court of Canada. Religious leaders with whom I have spoken in Quebec say they’ll take this fight to the United Nations if they have to.
And if it passes, I hope Canadians — of all faiths — across the country join our brothers and sisters in Quebec in protest.
In my opinion, Quebec’s charter is a none-too-subtle form of racism that should never be allowed Canada.