Geneviève Caron and Claude Pineault testified late Thursday afternoon at the commission on Quebec’s controversial proposed secular charter that would ban the wearing of visible religious symbols in the public sector.
The couple told the commission about their experience travelling to Morocco and Turkey, countries that have a large Muslim majority.
“Praying on all fours on a carpet, what is that all about?” asked Caron in French during her recounting of a visit to a mosque in Morocco where she was asked to remove her shoes.
She said she reluctantly gave up her footwear and entered the mosque, only to find women and men praying on their hands and knees in separate quarters of the temple.
“I remained really marked by this. I got back on the bus and said, ‘Could this be? Praying on all fours on a carpet?’” Caron continued.
Her husband, Pineault, spoke about visiting an open-air marketplace in Tangier, Morocco to pick up a souvenir of their trip. He said he was pickpocketed by two people who were wearing some kind of religious headgear.
“They searched me on the right side. I thought it was my wife. But then they searched me on the left side,” he told the commission.
“Who was under these disguises? Women? Men? I don’t know,” Pineault said in French.
“What I do know, is that it’s unthinkable to allow people to walk around in Quebec, in the streets, in public places — really anywhere besides homes and private places — with such disguises,” he concluded.
Bernard Drainville, the Parti Québécois minister responsible for the creation of Bill 60, reminded Pineault and Caron that many Muslims who come to Quebec integrate quite well.
He told Pineault he didn't want to send the message that people from other countries are a menace to Quebec society.
Liberal Marc Tanguay was visibly taken aback by Pineault and Caron's testimony. Instead of questioning him at length as has been done with other witnesses, Tanguay invited Pineault to continue with his train of thought before passing the line of questioning over to another commissioner.
Read the transcription of Caron and Pineault’s testimony here (in French, by searching Claude Pineault): National assembly website