Opt-out clause, National Assembly crucifix issues Charter of Values
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013 12:44PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 9, 2013 9:13PM EDT
The Parti Quebecois government says it does not have the final version of the Charter of Quebec Values on paper as it is still going through comments from the public.
There are reports, which the minister in charge of the bill refused to confirm, that the government will eliminate the 'opt-out' clause initially proposed for municipalities and select institutions.
The idea that a supposed bill to enforce secularity would also exempt the seat of government itself and allow a crucifix, given by the Catholic Church, to remain in the blue room of the National Assembly where laws are debated also became a target.
Former premier Maurice Duplessis placed the crucifix in the National Assembly in 1936, to a closer connection between the state and God, -- and with Quebec Roman Catholics.
Minister for Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville claimed the crucifix was just a cultural symbol, an idea that was scoffed at by the Catholic Church. However the Church, while it disapproves of the Charter of Quebec Values as a whole, said there was no reason for the crucifix to remain in the blue room.
Drainville said on Wednesday that many of the people who made online comments about the Charter discussed the crucifix.
"We have received many, many comments on the issue of the crucifix, we have received also many comments on the issue of the withdrawal clause, so we are using these comments that more than 25,000 citizens made to us to feed our reflection, to feed the process which will lead us to tabling the bill sometime this fall," he said.
A La Presse report claims the government has hardened its position.
Soon after Drainville presented his initial brief on the Charter and what it would entail, every municipality on the island of Montreal said it would reject the Charter.
Presented with this widespread, unanimous rejection by the most densely populated part of the province, Minister for Montreal Jean-Francois Lisée said the opt-out clause would have to be altered because it would not make any sense for the metropolis to operate under different, more liberal rules than rural areas.
He also remained tight-lipped about the crucifix issue.
“What I'm willing to say is that we're working on it. We haven't made decisions yet,” he said.
Meantime, the Liberal party stated that removing the crucifix raises questions about other symbols.
“Well we have to be somewhat careful here, because again if you go in the room of the Assembly and you look around, you'll find many other examples of religious allusions, and symbols in the room,” said party leader Philippe Couillard, adding that the Liberals won’t support a ban on religious icons.
“I will never collaborate in any way or be complicit in any way directly or indirectly to any limitations of our individual freedoms,” he said.
Drainville said the bill to alter Quebec's Charter of Rights will likely be presented in the National Assembly before the end of the year.
Quebec Solidaire tables Charter of Secularism
Meanwhile the fourth party in parliament, Quebec Solidaire, is presenting its own version of the Charter of Secularism.
Bill 398 builds on the consensus already apparent in the province that people in positions of authority, such as police officers, judges, and prosecutors, should be banned from wearing religious icons.
QS spokesperson Francoise David said that months after igniting a divisive debate, it was inappropriate for the government to wait any longer to present its bill. She suggested the PQ either approve her bill, or draw heavily from it to present its own version as soon as possible.
The QS's charter would ban all city and town councils from reciting prayers before meetings, and would ban the Speaker of the National Assembly from wearing any religious symbol. It would also remove the crucifix from its current position above the Speaker's chair.