Québec’s nationalist political party, Parti Québécois, has recently proposed a charter of values that bans all state employees from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols at their state jobs. The reasoning behind this proposal? To promote “religious neutrality of Québec’s public institutions.” The charter bans hijabs, turbans, and kippahs. However, the large cross hanging above the Speaker’s chair in the province’s legislature is not prohibited. Parti Québécois was created in 1968 and advocates for the province’s independence in becoming its own sovereign state.
The citizens are split: 52% support the charter and both sides are holding protests. An ex-Supreme Court judge backs up the charter explaining that she sees more veiled women in Quebec than in Muslim countries. At a pro-charter rally this past weekend, citizens explained their reasoning for their support:
“If we don’t have religious symbols, I think it’s easier to accept each other for all societies,”
“I respect everybody and what they do when they go to the synagogue or when they go to a mosque…But I don’t think it belongs in the public space.” [Ottawa Citizen]
Quebecers who defend the charter claim that this proposal will protect women who are being forced to wear hijabs. Those in opposition argue this will not solve that problem. Individuals who force these actions upon women will go unpunished and those who freely choose to wear religious garments are the ones adversely affected. And for those who choose not to follow the charter’s rules? Possible loss of their jobs.
Amnesty International has recently spoke out claiming the charter violates international human rights. They argue it not only fails to promote equality among men and women, but also violates freedom of religion and expression. On the other hand, the Canadian’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows laws to put limits on individual freedoms as long as they are “reasonable.”
Do you think the charter has any merit to it? Will it help ease relations among the sexes and those of differing religious background? Does the charter seem to target minority religions?