09/13/2013 11:49 EDT | Updated 11/13/2013 05:12 EST

Rest Of Canada Afraid Of Secular Values Debate, PQ Minister Says


The PQ minister responsible for promoting Quebec's "Charter of Values" says politicians in the rest of Canada of being too timid to do what his government is doing.

Bernard Drainville said many Canadians would agree with similar measures in other provinces but, he said, their politicians do not have the courage to take the issue on.

"I think the rest of Canada is probably eager to have the same kind of debate we're having in Quebec, but unfortunately political representatives of any party have not been too courageous to have this debate," said Drainville in an interview on CBC Radio's The House that will air Saturday morning.

If it becomes law, Quebec's charter would ban all public sector employees, including teachers, judges, daycare workers and health care workers in Quebec from wearing "ostentatious" religious symbols or garb while on the job.

Those symbols include large visible crosses and headcoverings such as hijabs, turbans and kippas.

Drainville, Quebec's minister for democratic institutions, said his province is just clarifying the rules and firming up the line between religion and the state. He said many Canadians outside of Quebec would appreciate the same action from their provincial governments.

Says polls show split

Drainville pointed to an August poll from Forum Research that found 42 per cent of Canadians supported forbidding public employees from wearing religious headware and symbols.

Forty-seven per cent were opposed to the idea, but Drainville said the numbers show it's close.

"I think the Canadian political establishment should take stock of the fact that there's quite a few Canadians who agree with us and who would like to have this debate."

Drainville insisted that the proposed values charter is not part of an election strategy.

"[That] is not the objective. We are a minority government. Yes, we could fall at any moment. But the idea is not to fall on it. The idea is to get it adopted," he said, adding that the issue "crosses party lines."

The federal government has said that if the values charter becomes law and it violates Canadians' rights, Ottawa will challenge the law in court.

In response, Drainville said "we'll deal with it once we get there."

Listen to The House with guest host Chris Hall, Saturday at 9 a.m. on CBC Radio One and on SiriusXM satellite radio channel 169.

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