Quebec government promises to move National Assembly crucifix if secularism law passes

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Quebec government promises to move National Assembly crucifix if secularism law passes

by - 2 min read

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The Coalition Avenir Québec government promises to move the crucifix that hangs in the provincial legislature’s main chamber if its secularism legislation is adopted into law.

The CAQ is set to table a bill today titled, “An act respecting the laicity of the state,” which would prohibit public workers in positions of authority from wearing a religious symbol such as a hijab or kippa.

A member of the CAQ announced Thursday morning that if the bill passes, the ruling party would introduce a motion to move the crucifix from the National Assembly’s main chamber to a different part of the building. 

The crucifix was installed above the Speaker’s chair in 1936. A government-commissioned report into secularism and identity issues recommended in 2008 that it be removed, but no government has done so.

A crucifix above the Speaker’s chair in the Quebec National Assembly has been described by some politicians more as a symbol of Quebec’s heritage, not an item representing Christian faith. The cross was installed in 1936 by the order of then Premier Maurice Duplessis. (CBC)

The CAQ’s proposed ban on religious symbols would apply to Crown prosecutors, judges and any public employee who carries a firearm.

It would also extend to teachers and principals, though there will be a grandfather clause in the bill to exempt teachers already working in the classroom.

Premier FrançoisLegault said Wednesday he agreed to exempt current teachers in an attempt to secure greater support for the proposal and, he hopes, to put an end to the debate once and for all. 

“It hasn’t been solved since 12 years now, and I would like that we turn the page and talk about health care, education, economy,” Legault said Wednesday, referring to the failed attempts of three previous governments to settle the matter of what religious dress is acceptable in a secular state. 

“I would like that it be settled for the summer with the support of as many Quebecers as possible, and that’s why I accepted to make compromises.”

The Quebec government’s intention of regulating religious clothing has already drawn protests, including this one last fall in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The bill could also reportedly pre-emptively invoke the notwithstanding clause to avoid being held up in the courts by charter challenges. 

The clause, officially called Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allows provincial or federal authorities to override certain sections of the charter for a period of five years.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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