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PQ plan threatens rights

Quebec's separatist government is reported to be preparing to introduce legislation that would severely restrict religious symbols and clothing in an effort to create a so-called secularist society, free of the trappings of spiritual identity.

Some pundits say it's only a trial balloon, but it should be shot down before it disgraces the floor of the Quebec National Assembly, tainting not just Quebec's reputation, but Canada's, too.

Oct 26 2010 winnipeg free press dale cummings edit dinky    QUEBEC ORTHODOX JEWS / MUSLIM VEILS


Oct 26 2010 winnipeg free press dale cummings edit dinky QUEBEC ORTHODOX JEWS / MUSLIM VEILS Photo Store

Quebecers started shedding their special relationship with the Catholic Church in the 1960s during the Quiet Revolution, and the Parti Quebecois obviously thinks it's time for other groups -- Jews and Muslims in particular -- to get over their spiritual and cultural accoutrements.

Even the Christian cross would be banned from public view, with the exception of the legislature, where it is regarded as an historic artifact.

The proposed legislation, which PQ leader Pauline Marois touted during last year's provincial election, would be confined to provincial government jobs, including schools, day cares and hospitals. It would ban turbans, kirpans, niqabs, hijabs, Jewish yarmulkes and anything with a religious meaning.

Such a measure would have obvious repercussions in the private sector, where many people would feel uncomfortable in anything but a suit and tie.

Quebec has a long history of xenophobia, but it has evolved over the last decade into a mean-spirited, anti-democratic war against minorities that some critics have labelled "Putinism," a reference to the assault on human rights in Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

If the legislation was enacted, it would clearly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects minority rights and freedom of religion and assembly.

It is assumed minority groups and others would challenge such a law in the courts. But even if they were successful, the province could invoke the Charter's notwithstanding clause to override a court's ruling.

In such an event, the federal government and every province ought to use their leverage to compel compliance with the country's basic principles. Quebec's governments may not have embraced multiculturalism, but they cannot deny the fundamental rights that are the foundation of free and open societies.

Canadians have slowly grown accustomed to Quebec's view of itself as a distinct society, but not if it means accepting a pure laine society with an irrational, pathological fear of religious and personal freedoms.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 A12


Updated on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:29 AM CDT: adds art

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