The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), who currently holds a 6% lead over the the provincial Liberals in the polls (36% vs. 30%) has proposed a plan to “secularize” Québec’s state within the first year of its potential mandate. François Legault–the leader and founder of the CAQ–outlined several points regarding laïcité in an interview with Québec’s private news network TVA.
Legault plans to ban state workers in positions of authority–judges, polices officers, prison guards and teachers–from wearing any form of religious signs. The CAQ would also prevent public services to be offered to those who do not have their faces uncovered. This would effectively block Québec residents wearing a burka or chador from receiving these services.
This last proposition would be similar to Bill 62, a law adopted by the provincial Liberals in 2017 which has faced significant legal challenges in Québec’s superior court. As a result, the bill–which was supposed to be effective as of this July–has been censured by the court.
However, Legault’s plan would not go as far as banning kindergarten teachers and employees from wearing religious signs, a proposal put forward by the Parti Québecois.
Legault’s plan a result of long debate in the province
If put into place, Legault’s proposition would settle a debate in the province which has lasted for more than ten years. The “crisis of reasonable accommodations,” dates back to the CAQ’s predecessor party, the Action Démocratique du Québec. The “crisis” was a series of events from 2006 to 2007 which led to widespread criticism of the province’s approach to the integration of cultural and religious minorities.
Despite being against the wearing of religious garments by state employees in positions of authority, Legault would not take down the crucifix which rests above the president’s chair in Québec’s national assembly. According to Legault, the crucifix represents “a part of our history and our heritage.” The crucifix was installed in 1936 by Maurice Duplessis’ Union Nationale government.
The polls are favorable of Legault’s proposition
Legault would be correct in his assessment that a majority of Quebecers are against the idea of state employees wearing religious signs. According to an Angus Reid Global poll conducted in 2013, 69% of Quebecers would support a law that prohibits people who are public employees from wearing religious clothing or symbols while at work.
According to the same poll, 90% of Quebecers are opposed to a burka being worn by state employees, in comparison to 62% of Canadians outside of Québec.