The Religious Symbol Ban Is Officially Coming To Quebec, Here's Everything We Know So Far

Opinion on whether symbols should be banned depends on what religion the symbol represents
The Religious Symbol Ban Is Officially Coming To Quebec, Here's Everything We Know So Far

The CAQ has been holding a caucus over the last few days to discuss their plan to ban religious symbols for some people in Quebec.

François Legault has been determined to push a bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols since his election in October. He is holding on to this stance firmly. 

READ ALSO: Francois Legault Agrees With Language Police That English Should Be Removed From Hospital Signs

Tl;DR We have more details on what will be included in the bill concerning religious symbols. Private school teachers will not be included, and there is debate over whether or not to exclude current employees. A poll shows how there is ambivalence over which symbols should be excluded.

Though we do not have all of the details of the bill yet, some details are slowly emerging. We know that public servants will be required to remove their religious symbols to work.

This would include judges and lawyers, as well as police officers and teachers. The giant cross in the national assembly, however, will not be removed, because it is considered a "cultural symbol."

Legault recently announced that teachers from private schools would be exempt from the rule, even though 60% of their funds come from the government.

Another point of contention that has been debated during this caucus is the issue of current employees: should they be exempt from the new bill? A "grandfather bill" could provide exemptions for current employees.

"Off the top, firing someone (for refusing to remove a symbol) is not a prospect I relish," Legault stated. "On the other hand, do we want to create a situation where people would have different rights depending on their hiring date?"

The CAQ has a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Despite this, they would like to propose the bill jointly with another party in order to make it seem like a more unified effort. But this has proven to be difficult.

The PQ has expressed that it would support the bill if current employees were exempt from the ban.

Quebec Solidaire has also been supportive of the bill, but will not support it unless teachers are excluded. And a growing faction of the party has expressed no interest in supporting the bill at all.

This ambivalence towards religious symbols, in terms of what and how they should be banned, shows the deep divide in Quebec over which symbols should be banned, and which are considered acceptable. 

A recent survey from the Angus Reid institute, a non-profit Canadian institution, polled Quebecers to better understand their stance on public employees wearing religious symbols. The results are disappointing.

Two thirds of Quebecers support the ban on religious symbols, but what symbols do we really want to see banned?

The survey shows that, out of the 9 symbols proposed, only 3 are acceptable to a majority of the population: the crucifix, the star of David, and a nun's habit.

Via Angus Reid Institute

In contrast, in the rest of Canada, 6 out of 9 of these are accepted by the majority.

Via Angus Reid Institute

And, between generations, the support for a ban on religious symbols is further complicated. There is a clear divide amongst age groups, and younger people have a tendency to be more tolerant of religous symbols in the workplace than older people. 

The divide is particularly pronounced on non-judeo-christian symbols. 20% more people between the ages of 18-34 believe the burqa should be allowed than those who are 35-54 years old.

It seems obvious when we look at this that Quebec is motivated to ban religious symbols by more than just a desire to be secular. The Niqab and a nun's habit are similar in how much of the body they cover, but the latter receives over 50% more approval than the latter.

It is less about the desire for secularity, then, and more out of a dislike for what certain symbols stand for, or appear to stand for. Quebecers need to get real about what drives their support for this bill.  

In the meantime, Legault has denied that Islamophobia exists in Quebec.

Stay tuned.

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