The Quebec government has introduced a bill that would ban the wearing of religious symbols by public workers.
The so-called “secularism bill,” proposed by Quebec premier Francois Legault’s government, would prohibit all outward expressions of religion, including Muslim hijabs, Jewish kippahs, Sikh turbans and Catholic crucifixes.
The stated purpose of the bill, which is entitled “An act respecting the laicity of the state” would be to “affirm religious neutrality in a manner that ‘ensures a balance between the collective rights of the Quebec nation and human rights and freedoms,” reported CBC News.
A grandfather clause would allow current teachers who already wear religious symbols to continue to do so.
According to the CBC report, Premier Legault said he agreed to the teachers’ exemption and a proposal to remove a crucifix that hangs in the National Assembly’s main chamber in order to secure enough votes for the bill’s passage.
Advocates for both Muslim and Jewish communities have both expressed concern that the bill would limit religious freedom.
“Every young person who aspires to a be a judge, a teacher or a police officer and wears a head scarf will think that they have no future in this province and it will push Muslims away from Quebec,” said Shahad Salman, a lawyer who wears a head scarf, told the New York Times.
Harvey Levine, the Quebec regional director of B’nai Brith, told the Times of Israel that the bill is “at odds” with Canadian values.
“We are very concerned with the new Quebec government’s statements regarding a ban on religious symbols displayed by government officials and displayed in public institutions,” said Levine.
“We call on the [Quebec government] to avoid the slippery slope of diminishing fundamental rights and work instead to secure religious liberties for all Quebecers,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his opposition to the legislation on Thursday.
“It’s unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion,” he said.