OTTAWA – Yesterday, the Quebec government released its proposal for a Charter of Quebec Values, which will severely limit religious accommodation and expression in the province, should it become law. The proposal includes such measures as banning the wearing of religious attire by public officials including large Christian crucifixes, the Jewish kippa or the Muslim Hijab. Small crosses or other religious symbols are exempt. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) condemns the measure as it strips targeted groups of Quebec citizens of the opportunity to seek or retain employment with the provincial government, potentially with municipal governments and, according to the minister responsible, he hopes private employers will follow suit.
“Premier Marois and government officials have claimed that such a ban treats all Quebeckers equally, and places them on equal footing, but that is not the case,” explains EFC President Bruce Clemenger. “The Charter of Values does not require most Christians to choose between religious observance – the practice requirements of their faith – and government employment as there is nothing distinctive about what we Christians, or secularists for that matter, wear. The proposal does mean that adherents of those faiths that do require the personal display of symbols or that specific headgear or other clothing be worn are being asked to choose between their religion and being a civil servant.”
“This is not neutral nor an equal treatment of religion” continues Clemenger. “Only some religious groups will be impacted and it does not treat religious adherents equally as it imposes the practices of some who do not wear distinctive attire on all. “
“This Charter, as it is structured, is not about equality or neutrality,” states Clemenger. “It states that certain religious people who are otherwise identifiable based on their appearance should conform to the practices and beliefs of the majority.”
“This Charter is inconsistent with clear democratic, religious and multicultural principles as set out in Canadian human rights legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiple Supreme Court of Canada decisions, and the values that Canadians hold dear,” explains EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson. “It’s an abhorrent attempt to turn back the clock on accommodation, respect and diversity in a country that is regarded around the world as a champion of human rights and a place sought after for immigration because of our reputation for freedom and democracy.”