François Legault and his CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) government have announced a controversial new piece of legislation that will bar workers in the public sector from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.
Employees such as public school teachers, judges, police officers, and government lawyers (among others) are included in the ban.
- CAQ would invoke notwithstanding clause to ban religious symbols from the workplace
- Everything the CAQ has promised to do if they won a majority government
The religious symbol ban, known as Bill 21, was passed with a vote of 73-35 for on Sunday night.
While provincial bills aren’t usually adopted on weekends, especially at night, Bill 21 was passed after the CAQ used a technique called ‘parliamentary closure’ to speed through the legislation process.
The technique closes down the usual committee debate over a bill and forces a vote after 12 hours of discussion.
The CAQ used the same technique on Saturday to pass Bill 9, which aims to reduce delays in Quebec’s immigration system by disallowing more than 16,000 applications for immigrant workers.
Bill 9 was passed just after 4 am on Sunday by a favouring vote of 62-42.
Le PL sur la laïcité est enfin adopté. Dorénavant, les signes religieux pour les employés de l’État en position d’autorité seront interdits.
Nous avons écouté les Québécois, et avons enfin tourné la page sur un débat qui perdurait depuis plus de 10 ans. pic.twitter.com/5IWEfHs6pE
— François Legault (@francoislegault) June 17, 2019
Leading up to the new legislation, the religious symbol ban has garnered criticism from those who worry Bill 21 will regulate discrimination, especially against the Muslim community where hijabs will be banned within the public sector.
“The Quebec government has stated its intent to propose legislation to prohibit the wearing of religious symbols for all persons in a position of authority, including teachers,” said English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini in March. “We believe in the secularity of the state while still supporting an individual’s right to freedom of religion.”
Bill 21 was passed by invoking the notwithstanding clause (la clause nonobstant), also knowns as the override power, which allows provincial legislatures to override certain portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CAQ also added a number of last-minute amendments to the bill including granting permissions for surveillance and enforcement of the law by government officials.
“We have just written an important page in the history of Quebec,” says Simon Jolin-Barrette in French, a member of the National Assembly of Quebec, through the CAQ website. “The public has been waiting for this moment for more than ten years, and our government has had the courage to finally act in this way with rigour and patriotism. I am proud, on behalf of your government, to finally assert and define the province’s secularism by cementing it under Quebec law for the first time.”
Grand moment pour la nation québécoise.
Ce soir, nous marquons un pan de l’histoire du Québec.
La laïcité fait désormais officiellement partie de nos lois au Québec.
Soyons fiers ! pic.twitter.com/c2yTiLVwrc
— Simon Jolin-Barrette (@SJB_CAQ) June 17, 2019