City Hall crucifix to be removed
The cross in Montreal’s city hall is coming down.
During an executive council meeting on Wednesday morning, city councillor Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde said the crucifix would be removed due to renovations to the building, but would not be rehung after the work is done. Renovations aimed at modernizing city hall are set to begin on the building next month.
“The crucifix was installed during an era that was completely different than the one we live in today,” said Lavigne-Lalonde during the meeting.
The cross was hung in city hall in 1937 as a reminder to municipal politicians that their decisions should be guided by God.
Times have changed, said Mayor Valerie Plante.
“I truly believe and based on all the discussion that has been done in the past, that it doesn't have to be in city council where it is a secular institution. This is a place where we make decisions and it was originally put there to support decision making,” she said. “I think we're in a very different time now.”
Given the crucifix's historical value, city officials said they would like at options such as keeping it in a museum-like portion of city hall once it reopens.
“We now live in a society that has evolved and is represented by democratic institutions that must be secular, neutral and open to all citizens,” said Lavigne-Lalonde.
In the shadow of Quebec City
The place of religious symbols within government has been a hotly contested one in Quebec. The Coalition Avenir Quebec provincial government has announced plans to table a bill that would ban people in positions of authority from wearing symbols such as a hijab or kippah.
The city hall decision garnered mixed reaction in Quebec City. Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who introduced the religious symbols bill, said the National Assembly would not follow suit by removing its own crucifix.
"They can do what they want about that. The National Assembly has always decided to maintain (the crucifix) and that's the position of the government because it's a (historical) symbol," he said.
But just as Barrette made a strong defence of the National Assembly crucifix, the Premier Francois Legault was contradicting him.
“I say we still have discussions and nothing is decided and I ask you to be patient very soon in the next few weeks,” he said. “We will table our full position on this issue.”