Québec City, 26 August 2013 – The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, François Legault, and the Second Opposition Group critic for culture and MNA for Montarville, Nathalie Roy, presented, on Monday, the Coalition Avenir Québec’s position with regards to the issue of religious accommodations. “We wish to offer Quebecers a responsible and balanced proposal. A proposal that respects the interests and aspirations of all Quebecers. We believe that it contains all the necessary elements required to rally a large majority of Quebecers who aspire to live together whilst insuring the vitality of the majority’s culture and heritage as well as the assets of an open and diverse society in North America”, declared M. Legault.
The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec enumerated the proposals liable to guarantee the state’s neutrality.
He announced that his party was favorable to the recommendations put forth by the Bouchard-Taylor (BT) Commission aimed at prohibiting individuals who personify state authority such as judges, police officers and other peace officers from wearing religious symbols. To this list the Coalition will add school principals and teachers in primary and secondary schools in the public education system in light of the authority they command vis-à-vis students obliged to attend school. This provision was not planned for in the BT Commission’s report.
Mr. Legault specified that “the positions from which we wish to ban religious symbols are limited, but concern specifically state employees in position of authority. In light of the important powers and responsibilities entrusted to these individuals, it is necessary to insure that, in reality and in the eyes of the population, they exercise their functions in all neutrality and credibility. For us, teachers as well as primary and secondary school principals also meet this criterion”, explained François Legault.
The Coalition Avenir Québec also advocates for the establishment of a Charter of secularism in order to clarify each person’s rights and obligations in establishing clear guidelines that have been lacking in recent years.
The leader of the Coalition also pointed out that the services provided by the state of Québec will be given and received with faces uncovered for identification and security purposes.
One of the clearest illustrations of Quebecers subscribing to a profound common value is that of equality between men and women. Currently, the right to freedom of religion is recognized in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms as being equivalent to the right to equality between women and men. These rights are found to conflict at times. The inalienable principle of equality between men and women will always have to guide the courts in cases of religious accommodations requests. “For the Coalition Avenir Québec, the principle of equality between men and women must at all times be respected when a religious accommodation is permitted”, declared François Legault.
For the Coalition Avenir Québec, guaranteeing the state’s neutrality is not incompatible with respect for Québec’s religious and cultural heritage.
“The presence of the crucifix at the National Assembly or of certain elements with religious connotations in public spaces such as town halls will not be affected by the measures that we propose. These objects have sometimes been there for several decades and are a part of Québec’s history and material culture. Traditional symbols associated with holidays like Christmas and Easter are also an integral part of Québec’s material culture. We cannot ban them on the grounds that they carry a religious connotation”, declared Nathalie Roy.
The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec added that Quebecers were ready to establish a framework for religious accommodations to the benefit of all. He demanded that the PQ government quickly table a bill on the issue. “We’ve debated enough in Québec. It’s time to take action. The National Assembly will be able to hold consultations when it considers the bill”, the MNA for Montarville noted.
“Our proposals are balanced and based on principles that are largely shared by Quebecers. We have not seen the government’s final project, and we will be able to comment on it officially in due course. In the mean time, we have carefully crafted our proposal and we believe that it will benefit from a large consensus that should inspire the government for its proposals. For the good of Québec, and all Quebecers, we wish that this debate unfold calmly, serenely, and with mutual respect” concluded Mr. Legault.
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