If you happen to live in Canada, or if you’re a faithful follower of world politics, your eyebrows must be in a permanently raised position after reading about the proposed “Charter of Quebec Values,” that would ban the wearing of most religious symbols by provincial government employees. Usually, the Quebec government is all hot under the collar to secede from Canada, but this is the first time the Canadian province has bandied about legislation to infringe upon the civil rights of its own people.
In a country where multiculturalism is celebrated, Quebec has long since had some issues with the religious customs and clothing of some of its residents. A past furor over the Muslim niqab made news a few years ago, when the province wanted to outlaw the headcovering many devout women wear, because it leaves only the eyes visible. Now, a ban would extend to hijabs, which cover only a woman’s head, the turbans worn by Sikh men, yarmulkes worn by observant Jewish men, and large crucifixes, to name a few. Members of the Parti Quebecois government feel that people who wear these symbols are perpetuating inequality because they are perceived to be receiving special treatment others do not get. The ban would affect the work attire of public servants, with the exception of elected officials. Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Multiculturalism, said that if the ban were to be passed, the federal government would challenge its implementation. “We would challenge any law that we deem unconstitutional, that violates the fundamental constitutional guarantees to freedom of religion,” he said.
It seems as if the members of the Parti Quebecois need to spend some time with their laptops, tablets and smart phones, to engage in some online training that will teach them how to be more sensitive to the faith of public servants. If religious symbols do not interfere with the day-to-day performance of employees, it seems ridiculous to attempt to ban them, but in Quebec, there are many issues that are important to the provincial government that manage to raise more than a few eyebrows within Canada, the United States, and other places in the world. Let’s hope this particular issue goes the way of the failed secession attempts that had many Quebec residents and Canadians breathing massive sighs of relief.
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