Quebec – The province has formally tabled the much-talked about charter of values that will largely restrict the wearing of religious symbols by government workers.

The Charter of Values, Bill 60, was tabled in the Quebec National Assembly yesterday by Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the legislation. Although it is constantly referred to as “The Charter of Values,” the formal title of the bill is the “Charter Affirming The Values Of Secularism And The Religious Neutrality Of The State, As Well As The Equality of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests.”

Drainville denied he had anything to do with the 28-word title, claiming it was drawn up by lawyers wanting to reflect the entire bill in the title.

Bill 60 prohibits employees of the state from wearing anything; headgear, clothing, jewelry or other conspicuous objects that indicate an affiliation with a particular religion. The bill is not just aimed at wearing face-covering niqabs but prohibits Muslims from wearing head scarves, Sikhs from wearing turbans, and Jews from wearing yarmulkes. Catholics will be allowed to wear crucifixes as long as they are not too large although what is too large is not set out in the bill.

The legislation applies not to just those who are normally considered to be civil servants but includes all state employees. This includes judges, police officers, paramedics, and doctors and nurses who work in provincial hospitals. Anyone who is paid by the state is subject to the provisions of the legislation.

The bill provides for a five-year transition period to come into effect fully. Hospitals will be given a long phase-in time. Anyone who offends the law will be spoken to by a supervisor. Further non-compliance with the terms can result in dismissal.

Under the legislation, some in the private sector can be subjected to the terms of the law if they enter into a contract to provide services to the government.

Persons who are elected to sit in the Quebec National Assembly will also be subject to Bill 60. But, unlike doctors and nurses, members will be able to apply to the assembly office for an exemption.

The Quebec government does not know how many people in the province would be affected by Bill 60. They never set out to determine the numbers because, apparently, that would amount to racial profiling.

Speaking in the National Assembly yesterday, Premier Pauline Marois said Bill 60 “will not interfere with the rights of anyone.” Liberal Jean-Marc Fournier countered that the province’s human rights commission has already found the proposed legislation violates the Quebec Charter and reduces the rights of women who wear religious symbols. Fournier added, “you don’t protect rights by removing rights.”

The three major federal parties spoke out against the bill with the government reiterating its promise to monitor Bill 60 and possibly commence legal action should Bill 60 become law in substantially its present form.

But the bill is unlikely to pass, at least in its present form, because the Parti Quebecois have a minority government and the two opposition parties are against the legislation. This could result in substantial changes to the legislation or a defeat of Bill 60 that could trigger an election.

source: digitaljournal