After a week of criticism, Quebec’s incoming Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government is willing to soften their religious symbol ban and form a compromise with its civil servants.
Since being elected, the CAQ said they’d be willing to invoke the ‘notwithstanding clause’ to enforce the prohibition. The notwithstanding clause (la clause nonobstant), also knowns as the override power, allows provincial legislatures to override certain portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In doing so, the incumbent government said they would be prepared to fire teachers for example, who refused to take off their hijab, kippa or other religious wear.
The ban became part of the focus of a protest and march this past Sunday at Place Émilie-Gamelin.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, a member of the National Assembly of Quebec and spokesperson for the CAQ, said that the government would consider a “grandfather clause,” that would allow public workers who currently wear religious symbols to continue to do so. New hires, however, would be forced to comply with the ban.
He continues to say that making the exception is not the newly elected party’s preference, but would be willing to hear the opposition’s side as to how to make the ban more flexible. Jolin-Barrette stressed that the CAQ was elected on a clear mandate to put the religious symbol ban into effect.
With that said, the CAQ claimed to have no intention of removing the crucifix that hangs behind the Speaker’s chair in Quebec’s National Assembly.
The party argued that the crucifix, which has been in place since the 1930s, is part of Quebec’s heritage and that there is no contradiction between the CAQ’s plan and the Christian symbol.