Coalition supports Charter of Quebec Values
Published Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:47PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 24, 2013 7:17PM EDT
Supporters of the proposed Charter of Quebec Values are banding together in an umbrella group to voice their support for a secular Quebec.
The Rassemblement pour la laïcité, or the Gathering for Secularity, is composed of many groups which have already publicly declared their support for the Charter including the union of public and parapublic workers (SFPQ), SPQ Libre and the Quebec Secular Movement, and notable individuals such as Martine Desjardins, former president of FEUQ, and ex-Supreme Court Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé.
At a news conference on Tuesday members reiterated their desire that Quebec alter the existing Quebec Charter of Rights to include the right to be free from religion, especially for all aspects of the government.
The group said the proposal made by the Parti Quebecois government was actually too lax, and demanding that the crucifix given to the province of Quebec in 1936 be removed from the National Assembly, and that the proposed exemption clause be eliminated and replaced with a phase-in period for all government-paid employees.
Hijabs: a symbol of male oppression
Leila Bensalem, a teacher with the Commission scolaire de Montreal (CSDM), said the province needed to have a discussion about what was reasonable and rational in terms of making accommodations for religion.
She said that demands from students and teachers for halal meat in cafeterias, and for days off to celebrate religious holidays, should no longer be dealt with on an ad-hoc basis but instead be subject to strict regulation.
Bensalem also spoke strongly against women who wear hijabs, saying that headscarves were the first symbol of patriarchal oppression.
"Just think of the fundamentalists when they establish an Islamic republic. The first thing they ask of Muslim women is to wear the veil, when it's not the burqa or the niqab or whatever. It's like the flag they want their women to wear and they represent that mentality," said Bensalem.
Many women in Quebec who wear hijabs say that may be the case in other countries, but not in Canada, where the hijab is almost always a personal choice made by a woman to show her devotion to her faith.
Is Quebec historically secular?
Members of the coalition showed some division when it came to the history of the province, with some saying that secularism is a historic Quebec value, one that was actually fought for by the Patriotes revolution in the 1800s.
Other speakers disagreed, and said what was important was that Quebec was a society that had been dominated by the Catholic church for many years, only to finally throw off the yoke of quasi-religious rule within living memory.