08/26/2013 01:44 EDT | Updated 10/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec religious symbols ban doubtful, Tom Mulcair says

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he doubts Quebec Premier Pauline Marois will move ahead with a planned ban on religious headwear in public-sector workplaces because it would be contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The minority-government Parti Québécois will reportedly include the ban as part of the planned charter of Quebec values.

Leaked details, published in a media report last week, include a plan to prohibit people like doctors, teachers and public daycare workers from donning turbans, kippas, hijabs and visible crucifixes.

Mulcair compared the proposed ban to Marois musing last year about requiring language tests for candidates in municipal elections.

"And I said, look, it's so patently unconstitutional they'll never do it. And guess what? It was so patently unconstitutional, they never did it," Mulcair told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.

"I like to see things before I react to them," he said, adding that he has seen no text for a Quebec values charter.

Mulcair made the NDP's presentation to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, which conducted public hearings in 2007 on the impact of religious accommodation on Quebec's identity and values. The commission was run by sociologist Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor. He says the NDP agree with the recommendations of that report and will stand up against any proposal contrary to it.

"I don’t want to see scapegoating, particularly of Muslim women. That seems to be one of the particular targets here," Mulcair said.

John Baird demurs

In Toronto, the normally outspoken federal minister of foreign affairs declined to offer his opinion on the proposal. Speaking at a press conference to announce funding to promote religious tolerance in other countries, John Baird said his mandate is limited.

"I think one of the things that we made very clear when we launched the office [of religious freedom] within the Department of Foreign Affairs was my mandate was strictly outside of the country. So I'm going to repeat that obviously. I'm a big believer in freedom, a big believer of freedom everywhere, but the mandate that I have is in foreign affairs," Baird said.

Andrew Bennett, Canada's first ambassador of religious freedom, also declined to discuss the debate in Quebec.

"My focus is very much looking at freedom of religion outside of Canada and trying to advance that in countries where there is particularly egregious persecution of faith and also people who don't have a particular faith. Where people are being killed, being imprisoned, tortured. These are very serious issues and so that is my focus, not on a particular domestic question," Bennett said.