NEWS

Quebec values charter institutes 'powerful discrimination,' Charles Taylor says

09/11/2013 10:20 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST
The man who helped lead Quebec's commission on reasonable accommodation says the Parti Québécois' proposed charter of values goes too far and amounts to discrimination.

Charles Taylor told CBC's Daybreak this morning that charter could have a significant and lasting impact on the province.

“They aren’t really Quebec values – Quebec values as it turns out are very much in line with the universal values about this which include things like no discrimination,” he said. “In actual fact, under the cover of Quebec values, we’re going to operate a very powerful discrimination.

“This sends a message to people that belong to that kind of religion, ‘Don’t come here,’” he said.

Public employees would not be allowed to wear overtly religious symbols at work under the proposed charter of Quebec values, the details of which were released by the governing Parti Québécois yesterday.

That includes the wearing of kippas, turbans, burkas, hijabs and "large" crosses by civil servants while they are on the job.

Elected members of the national assembly would not be subject to the regulations.

In interviews, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has emphasized the need for a unified identity for Quebecers to bring the province’s citizens together.

The PQ has also said that the state and its employees should be neutral parties and should not express their religious beliefs in an overt way in the performance of their jobs.

However, critics of the proposed charter, including Taylor, say it doesn’t truly reflect the values held by the majority of Quebecers.

Taylor spent months travelling the province in 2007, listening to Quebecers as part of the commission he co-chaired on the reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural beliefs.

The 300-page report that resulted from those hearings, released in 2008, emphasized that Quebec has moved from a singular French-Canadian identity to a more encompassing societal understanding of citizens of the province.

The report called on the province to define its secular nature and develop greater measures to counteract discrimination. However, it also emphasized that accommodation shouldn’t be overly legislated.

Five years later, Taylor says the charter as proposed doesn’t accomplish the goals laid out in the report that and only superficially addresses the issue of state neutrality.

“We said in our report that neutrality of the state depends on what the government does. It depends on the actual policies,” he said.

“Because they’re making these appearances so important, they’re actually no longer neutral, in fact, because they’re saying, ‘If you belong to one of these ‘visible religions’ . . . you can’t work in the public sector unless you renounce your religion.’”

Everyone else, Taylor said, can do so without amending their beliefs and that amounts to discrimination.

He said the proposed regulations could alienate religious communities and drive a wedge between Montreal and the rest of the province.

The consequences, Taylor said, will be “disastrous in all sorts of ways.”

Though no timeline has been announced, the bill is expected to be tabled sometime in the coming months.

MORE:cbcNews