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  • Women protest Quebec's new Bill 21 in Montreal

    Women protest Quebec's new Bill 21 in Montreal | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 June 2019

Quebec has just passed a law that bans civil servants from wearing religious garments at work prompting an outcry among civil groups.

Canada’s Quebec province has voted on Sunday a law to ban employees working in some public sectors from wearing religious symbols or garments at work. This legislation provoked disapproval among civil liberties organizations and Muslim groups.

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For about 10 years now the predominantly French-speaking province has been discussing the issues of secularism and the new legislation, Bill 21, was approved by 73 to 35.

Public workers in positions of authority including teachers, judges, and police officers, will be prevented from wearing garments as the turban or the hijab during work hours.

Local media reported that for school teachers, only those hired after March 28 will not be allowed to wear their religious symbols. For those hired before March 28, the law will not apply but if they wish to be promoted, they will need to get rid of any religious sign.

Quebec's immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said Monday that "it is legitimate for the Quebec nation to decide in which form secularism applies in its territory and in its institutions". The decision of the province's center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec government is in conflict with Canada's President Justin Trudeau’s position as he promotes religious freedom.

“Our position is clear: it’s not up to politicians to tell people what to wear or not to wear,” said Simon Ross, a spokesman for Canada’s minister of Canadian heritage and multiculturalism.

Civil liberties and Muslim groups vowed Monday to challenge the law, arguing it triggered the "politics of fear," adding that “Canada is already a secular state and that is reflected in our institutions. This new law undermines fundamental rights and individual freedoms because it forces some people to choose between their religion and their job. We will monitor the implementation of the law.” 

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