NEWS

Quebec government to unveil secular charter

11/07/2013 06:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:53 EST
The Quebec government will officially table its secular charter after 10 o’clock this morning at the national assembly, hoping to spur a debate in the province over the need for religious neutrality.

Previously referred to as the Charter of Quebec values, the Parti Québécois has renamed the bill the Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests.

The secular charter is expected to include dress-code rules for all public employees as well as guidelines for religious accommodations.

When the PQ first released a proposal of the charter late last summer, the party said religious symbols would be banned for civil servants - such as judges, police officers, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, or hospital workers - while they are on the job.

"If the state is neutral, those working for the state should be equally neutral in their image," said Bernard Drainville, the minister in charge of the charter, in September.

Premier Pauline Marois says she hopes that when the official bill is tabled Thursday morning, it will open up a healthy debate among Quebecers over the need for state secularism.

Opposition already speaks out

Opposition politicians aren't waiting for the PQ to table its secular charter before going on the attack.

Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault criticized the PQ for refusing to consult with the opposition parties when drafting the legislation.

Liberal critic Jean-Marc Fournier says he expects Marois’ legislation will do more harm than good.

“She said in the national assembly that her bill won't divide - her bill is for a debate. Well, I'm sorry but you and I know this bill is for division, is for separation and is against the harmony of a society where you have to give a place to each and every one,” Fournier said.

Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard says the Liberals are likely to agree with the PQ's charter proposals on some key points.

“We agree on three fundamental elements that I think would bring consensus easily in our population: the fact that faces have to be uncovered to give or receive public services; the fact that what are called accommodations have to be reasonable and therefore have to be defined, with guidelines; and the fact that the concept of neutrality of the state has to be better defined in our legislation,” Couillard said.

The Liberals say they will oppose any bill that they see as infringing on individual freedoms.

MORE:cbcNews