Condemnation of Bill 60 renewed ahead of Tuesday's hearings
Published Sunday, January 12, 2014 5:39PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 13, 2014 6:46PM EST
MONTREAL - Opposition to Bill 60 is ramping up ahead of the public hearings into the proposed law, set to begin Tuesday in Quebec City.
Employees at one Montreal office wore combinations of hijabs, rosaries, kippas and other religious symbols that would be deemed "ostentatious" and banned under the charter.
Their actions are part of a Support Another, an initiative that asks Quebecers and Canadians to “support each other's freedom of expression, freedom of choice, and freedom of religion” by wearing a religious symbol as a form of protest against the law.
"As a people, Quebecers present themselves to the world as being very open and very welcoming -- joie de vivre -- and to me this goes against everything we say we are," said Glenda Ann Robertson, a member of the Support Another movement.
The Jewish General Hospital reiterated its stance against the piece of legislation Monday morning.
In a statement, executive director Lawrence Rosenberg said the hospital "unequivocally opposes" the bill, adding that "as long as healthcare services are delivered with professional competence, courtesy, and respect, no legislation should be permitted to override the freedoms of religion or expression that are guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"It really isn't about the Jewish General Hospital per se; it's more a question about universal human rights," said Rosenberg.
Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville, who is the architect of Bill 60, disapproved of the hospital's strong stance.
"I respect their right to be against the charter; I don't have a problem with that, but saying, more or less, that if it becomes the law they're not going to respect the law, that I have a problem with," he said. "I would call upon them to have a more reasonable and responsible attitude because they are a public institution and they are publicly funded."
On Sunday, a group of about 75 protesters convened at Place Jacques Cartier, with many wearing and carrying a variety of religious symbols which they insist should be tolerated when worn by teachers, nurses, provincial bureaucrats and all other provincial employees who choose to wear them.
And in an opinion piece published in La Presse Saturday, University of Montreal sociology professor Claire Durand suggests Bill 60 isn’t enjoying the same support thrown behind Bill 101 prior to its adoption.
Using information gleaned from public opinion polls conducted in August 1977 and September 2013, she found that the charter of values has substantially less support among people under 35 than the French language charter.
Bill 101 was passed Aug. 26, 1977.
The results of a public opinion poll published Monday found 48 per cent of Quebecers support the charter, up slightly from the 46 per cent who said they were in favour in a poll conducted in October.
The poll, for which 1,000 Quebecers were interviewed and which was conducted by Léger Marketing for The Gazette and the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration, also found that 57 per cent of respondents whose mother tongue was French, while only 16 per cent of respondents from other linguistic groups said the same thing.
"I believe if you are to work for the government, you already are supposed to refrain from showing your political beliefs and doing the same with religious beliefs is a logic step we should take," said Michelle Blanc, a member of the pro-charter feminist group Les Janettes.
While support for the charter is high, analyst Jack Jedwab said polls may not show the full picture.
"While many Quebecers like the charter of values, they are against its core proposal, which is the removal of an employee of a public institution that wears a religious symbol," said Jedwab of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration.
The organizer of Sunday's protest told CTV Montreal that she was inspired to create the event after an unpleasant encounter on the metro.
“A lady approached me and tried to remove my hijab,” said organizer Sama Al-Obaidy. “I succeeded in stopping her, luckily, but after that i heard of a lot more cases of assault.”
The PQ's proposed bill cannot pass into law without the support of either the opposition Liberal Party or the CAQ.
The Liberals oppose the legislation but the CAQ said Sunday that they might consider supporting it with certain modifications.
CAQ MNA Stéphane Le Bouyonnec said that Quebec needs such a charter but one area of contention lies in the definition of what exactly would be permitted or banned under the law.
PQ MNA Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the bill, expressed optimism that a deal could be struck to modify the bill in a way to make it acceptable the CAQ.
About 250 submissions are expected to be presented at the hearings, but once person present Sunday didn’t wait to share her feelings about the proposed legislation.
“It's a shame. Quebec is such a beautiful province. It's so charming and for us to have to fight for our right, it's unfortunate,” said demonstrator Laila Sherdel.