A proposed ban against public workers wearing religious garb in the Canadian province of Quebec spurred thousands of mostly Muslim protesters to gather in the streets of Montreal this weekend.
The prohibition of turbans, headscarves, and other religious garments is part of an amendment to Quebec’s “Charter of Values.” A similar law was passed in France more than two years ago.
“No to the charter,” protestors shouted, while also chanting “Quebec is not France.”
The proposed ban, which has not yet been presented to parliament, would bar public workers from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols,” including yarmulkes and large crosses, at work. Some religious jewelry, as long as it “is not very visible” would be allowed.
The measure would require all people receiving state services “to make their faces completely visible” – targeting the Muslim niqab, which covers all but the eyes.
Quebec minister Bernard Drainville has argued that the ban would bolster "the religious neutrality of the state” and create a better sense of unity among government workers.
"The best way to respect all Quebecers, the best way to respect all beliefs and all religious, is for the state to have no religion," Drainville said.
Jason Kenney, Minister for Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism, said he was “very concerned” about the ban. He worries if it is passed it "would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society, and that would affect the practice of their faith."
Despite “neutrality” the measure would not force the National Assembly to take down the crucifix that has been in its main chamber since 1936. Drainville says this is in deference to Quebec’s “cultural heritage.”