Premier Pauline Marois is being challenged by her own words on cultural and religious diversity.

In 1998 Marois, who at the time was education minister, co-authored a policy as that called for "active and visible" diversity in Quebec's schools.

It even instructed school boards to eliminate discriminatory rules and hiring practices, calling for a new policy of "Zero Exclusion" that would allow all citizens to participate in developing Quebec Society.

There are several other passages which seem to fly in the face of the policy the Parti Quebecois government is now supporting, the Charter of Values which would prevent all government-paid employees and subcontractors from wearing any religious garb while working.

The policy says it is based on UNESCO documents which say that education should "underline the importance of teaching students how to live together. This new instruction should teach students not only respect for differences, but also that they share similar social values."

Marois says the very idea that this prior document opposes the Charter of Values is nonsense, and claims the document is actually a guideline on how to assimilate immigrants into mainstream Quebec society.

The document says education in Quebec should link diversity to educational fundamentals, including "a mastery of French as the common language of public life, with education and civic involvement in a pluralistic environment."

It also says pluralism is essential in Quebec society, stating "We believe that diversity, be it ethnocultural, linguistic or religious, permeates Quebec society and has the right to be expressed."

"I have the document with me," said Marois. "I was speaking of common values and a Quebec for all, so if you read the document cover to cover you'll see I am completely, absolutely coherent."

The policy paper also notes that "some" members in scholastic environments underline the necessity of managing students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds through creating a code of conduct consistent with "the fundamental values of Quebec society."Analysts say Marois is trying to have it both ways.

"Of course there's a contradiction, but it's a case of that was then and this is now," said Don Macpherson.

Could backfire

Democratic Institution minister Bernard Drainville, who is spearheading the drive to legislate a ban on religious icons based on the notion that religions are opposed to gender equality, says Marois's stand on secular values in the face of opposition the height of bravery.

"If we have Quebec's values on secularism it is because Pauline Marois is premier of Quebec. Thanks to her courage we have a charter in Quebec and this is what we should I think focus on, we should focus on the present," said Drainville.

Macpherson Lapierre said he believes provincial government does not actually want to pass the Charter of Values.

"This is not legislation, this is a campaign pamphlet," said Macpherson.

With a growing number of universities taking public stances against the Charter, he feels the PQ is creating a split in society.

"The PQ used to be the party of the intelligentsia and now theres a split emerging not only in terms of universities, but opinion leaders in Quebec," said Macpherson.

Jean Lapierre agrees the PQ does not want to pass Bill 60, since the National Assembly will be on hiatus until February and is expected to fall in the spring.

But he thinks the constant promotion of the Charter will backfire.

"They want to go all the way across the province with a committee just to get people uptight," said Lapierre. "

"Everyone has already made up their mind."