The proposed ban on religious symbols for Quebec public employees has been the subject of intense debate since the CAQ government tabled bill 21 last week. Critics say the ban would discriminate against Muslim women and Jewish men, in particular.
TLDR: François Legault told reporters that people who plan to become public sector employees and wear religious symbols should take them off or find new jobs. These comments come amid some confusion about the details of the controversial bill 21.
But despite these mixed messages, Legault is now making clear that he takes the law very seriously. According to le Journal de Québec, the premier is warning students of education who wear religious symbols and plan to become public school teachers to either quit their religious expressions or find new career paths.
"There are other jobs available," he told reporters. "It is important that [public sector employees] know they cannot wear religious signs in these professions in Quebec."
The premier targeted education students because they will likely be part of the first generation to be greatly affected by the ban. Bill 21 includes a provision, widely called a "grandfather clause," that would exempt currently-serving public employees.
Already, a handful of schools and municipalities are refusing to enforce the ban, which many have deemed Islamophobic.
Several details of the ban, including enforcement strategies, are still unclear. The CAQ has been ambiguous about potential punishments for not following the law, according to Global News.
The "grandfather clause" also creates an inherent contradiction whereby some employees are permitted to wear religious symbols while others are not.
A recent post on the agency's official Twitter account states that "the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will now be named Comirnaty, the Moderna vaccine will be named SpikeVax, and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria."
(1/4) Health Canada has authorized brand name changes for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
— Health Canada and PHAC (@Health Canada and PHAC)1631805234.0
Health Canada asserted that "these are only name changes. There are no changes to the vaccines themselves."
Canada has four approved vaccines: Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech), SpikeVax (Moderna), Vaxzervia (AstraZeneca), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
"All COVID-19 vaccines authorized in Canada are proven safe, effective and of high quality," Health Canada wrote on Twitter.
"The premier did his best impression of Maurice Duplessis," Nadeau-Dubois said at the National Assembly on Wednesday evening, "by proclaiming himself the 'Father of the Quebec Nation.'"
What happened at the National Assembly?
Nadeau-Dubois said that Legault shouldn't assume that he can speak for all Quebecers.
"There are millions of Quebecers who are against Bill 21 [...] who don't support him or his government," said Nadeau-Dubois. "There are millions of us who are tired of him pretending to be our 'saviour and 'redeemer' [...] we are fed up of his sermons."
Legault angrily retorted that "there is a large majority of Quebecers who support Bill 21 and there are two multicultural parties [...] who are against Bill 21."
"The leader of Quebec Solidaire talks about Maurice Duplessis [...] the man had his faults but he defended the Quebec nation and wasn't 'woke' like the Quebec Solidaire leader."
Nadeau-Dubois then clapped back that "if the premier wants to bring the level of this discussion into the gutter, I won't follow him there."
"The premier doesn't have the right to expel Quebecers from the nation just because they disagree with him. He's a premier, not a monarch."
But who exactly was Maurice Duplessis?
Duplessis was twice elected Quebec premier from 1936 to 1939 and from 1944 to 1959.
Duplessis was against mandatory conscription for Quebecers during World War II but lost his premiership after calling a snap election. At the time, he was a heavy drinker and womanizer according to the Canadian Encyclopedia but quit drinking after a life-threatening bout with pneumonia and diabetes.
His second, 15-year long term as Quebec premier was more successful than his first. His government undertook enormous public works projects.
He was, however, especially harsh against workers' unions, according to the Encyclopedia, which also states corruption reached "legendary proportions" under his government
Quebecers who grew up during his reign took to calling this era in Quebec history "La Grande Noirceur," or "The Great Darkness."
According to the Canadian Encylopedia, Duplessis "had disdain for most contemporary concepts of civil liberties."
Nadeau-Dubois took to social media to poke fun at Legault's use of "woke," writing, "I don't know what François Legault has against woks," alongside a picture of himself with the cooking pot.
Legault doubled-down on using the term at a press conference on Thursday morning and even went on to define what he meant by "woke."
"For me, 'a woke' is someone who wants to make us feel guilty about defending the Quebec nation and its values," the premier said.
"I don't mind him calling me Duplessis but he is really on the other extreme [...] defending Quebec values doesn't interest him [...] that's why I called him 'woke.'"
No right turn on red on the Island of Montreal. It's a message everyone who's ever crossed into the metropolis knows. But why is this the case? It's a discussion that dates back a generation, so the reasoning behind it may have fallen out of collective memory.
The process of legalizing right turns on red in Quebec dates back to 2000, when public consultation on the subject began. The Ministry of Transports began right turn on red pilot projects across the province in 2001.
Despite a report on the results of the pilot projects recommending against legalization, Quebec officially adopted rights on red on April 13, 2003 — everywhere except Montreal, which was left to decide for itself whether to institute the measure.
The city put together a commission to study the possibility, but contributing groups rejected the measure, citing pedestrian and bike safety.
In its submission to the commission, the regional public health authority claimed rights on red would increase vehicular traffic in Montreal as well as the risk of pedestrian injury. It also said adverse effects on public safety "would be experienced primarily by residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, children, the elderly and the disabled."
Public health encouraged the city council to maintain the ban and focus on improving road safety, not make it worse.
Cycling advocacy group Vélo Québec, meanwhile, argued that, not only would right turns on red endanger pedestrians and cyclists, but that they would also undermine the character and international standing of Montreal, which, the group said, has an urban culture that emphasizes pedestrian access.
"Montreal is a city known for its restaurants, its festivals, its friendliness and the safety of its streets (this is what makes the Jazz Festival such a success, especially for Americans who can't believe that they can walk safely downtown in a festive atmosphere)," Vélo Québec wrote.
"Unfortunately, this unique character that makes Montrealers appreciate their city and that we are so good at selling to foreign visitors is directly challenged by the possible authorization of the [right turn on red]."
The special commission submitted its final report to Montreal City Council on October 27, 2003, but the city, of course, never implemented the measure.
Montreal public health revisited the issue as part of public consultation on road safety in 2017, but reaffirmed its findings from 15 years earlier, stating that "it is unthinkable to support a measure that creates road insecurity and injuries."