Quebec official proposes bill banning religious headwear for public workers

[JURIST] A member of Quebec's separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) [party website, in French] is proposing a bill that would ban government workers from wearing religious clothing on their heads, including turbans, hijabs and kippas. Bernard Drainville [official profile], the minister who proposed the bill, which is known as the values charter, said [AP report] that the bill's purpose is to ensure that the government is completely neutral on religious matters. Drainville explained that the ban would apply to public workers such as teachers and police officers, but not to elected officials, saying that people have the right to choose their own representatives. The Canadian government announced [Reuters report] that it will consult its Department of Justice [official website] to determine whether the values charter violates fundamental religious freedoms. The values charter is scheduled for debate later this year.

Burqas and other symbols of Islam have been a controversial subject, especially in Europe. Belgium officially banned [JURIST report] burqas in July 2011. France's ban on burqas took effect [JURIST report] in April 2011. Swiss voters approved a proposal to ban the construction of minarets [JURIST report] in November 2009, and the vote was subsequently upheld [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights [official website] in July 2011. Some commentators have suggested that the rationales behind the European burqa bans are weak [JURIST op-ed] and that the true purpose of the bills is societal discomfort.

 

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