Premier-elect Francois Legault announced this week, a day after his electoral victory, that intends to introduce legislation banning teachers, police officers, judges and other public sector employees from wearing any sort of religious symbols, Middle East Eye news outlet reported Thursday.
“I think that the vast majority of Quebecers … would like to have a framework where we say people in an authority position, they must not wear religious signs,” Legault said as quoted in the report during a Tuesday press conference, following his election victory on Monday.
This came as a ban on the use of religious symbols in public life has remained a heated topic of debate in the province for more than a decade.
This is while the previous government in Quebec City also passed legislation – known as bill 62 — last October banning face-coverings while providing or receiving public services, prompting criticism by human rights groups and legal experts, who insisted that the law serves as an affront to religious freedoms since it would prohibit Muslim women who wear full face veils (niqabs) from taking public transportation, going to hospitals, or attending public school.
That law is currently being challenged in court as unconstitutional.
However, the new government has taken an even more restrictive approach, banning all religious symbols in the public service sector.
Moreover, Legault has further declared that he would consider invoking the notwithstanding clause, giving federal and provincial governments the power to override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to enact the measure.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, cautioned the new Quebec premier earlier this week against using the exceptional provision.
“It’s not something that should be done lightly,” Trudeau was quoted as saying by CBC, adding that “careful attention” must be paid to anything that could remove or fail to defend “the fundamental rights of Canadians.”
Meanwhile, Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party, which secured a majority in the provincial legislature, has also campaigned on a pledge to lower the number of immigrants allowed into the province.
Legault vowed during his electoral campaign to subject incoming immigrants to French-language and values tests three years after they settle in Quebec, and if they fail the test, they would be expelled from Canada.
Reacting to Legault’s election victory, more than 160 community groups are due to take part in a protest rally on Sunday against racism in Montreal, the largest city in Quebec.
Organizers of the protest event emphasized in a statement this week that “migrants were heavily scapegoated” during the election campaign.
“Once again, women wearing hijabs have been targeted by proposals that would bar them from working, even as teachers,” they added.
A rise in Islamophobic and anti-Muslim sentiments across the US, Canada, and Western Europe has been widely attributed to hateful rhetoric against Muslims by US President Donald Trump.