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  • Women in traditional garb gather to protest against Quebec's proposed Charter of Values in Montreal, September 14, 2013.

    Women in traditional garb gather to protest against Quebec's proposed Charter of Values in Montreal, September 14, 2013. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 November 2019

The lawsuit contains a list of alleged violations by the Canadian province.

About 45,000 members of the teachers union federation in Quebec are suing the Canadian province after it banned in June the wearing of religious symbols including hijabs and crosses in some public sectors.

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The new rule states new public workers in a position of authority including teachers, judges, and police officers will be completely banned from wearing symbols of religion during work hours while existing employees get an exception as long as they keep the same job.  

Other public sector workers, including doctors, bus drivers, and social workers, can wear symbols as long as they don’t cover their faces. 

The lawsuit contains a list of alleged violations by the province.

The lead lawyer representing the union, Remi Bourget, said that in order to pass the bill, the Quebec government suspended Canadians’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion and equality without discrimination.  

“We want the court to declare that the rights of our members were violated by this government; the right to freedom of religion, of course, but also the right to equality, because the vast majority — if not the totality — of the people who will be impacted are women,” Bourget told The Associated Press. In Quebec, 75 percent of teachers are women, he said. 

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

Quebec's Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette had said at the time 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 was in conflict with Canada's President Justin Trudeau’s position as he promotes religious freedom.

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