National Assembly: Opposition parties erupt at prospect of hijab-wearing police officer
The story landed on the front page of the Journal de Montreal: 17-year-old Sondos Lamrhari wants to become a police officer, and said she wants to do it while wearing a hijab.
The teen’s career choice was applauded by Premier Philippe Couillard.
“I would say that she is a brave person, and I congratulate her for that,” Couillard said Thursday. “And I frankly hope she can fulfill all her dreams in Quebec.”
But for the opposition parties, a religious head covering has no place in a police uniform.
“Our position has always been very clear: all religious symbols would be forbidden for any employee of the state, who is in a position of authority, said CAQ MNA Genevieve Guilbault.
The Parti Quebecois, however, took things a step further, bringing up the case of a young Muslim woman in Gatineau who reported her father to the police.
“Her father was hitting her when she was taking off her hijab,” said Agnes Maltais, the PQ’s secularism critic.
“What would have happened if the police woman in front of her was a woman wearing a hijab? When you go to the police, you must see an official neutrality in front of you,” she added. “Welcome to women, [and] welcome to people from elsewhere – but everybody must play by the same rules.”
The Liberals say that kind of talk amounts to discrimination.
“She’s not welcome in Quebec – that’s the message that the opposition parties are sending to her,” said Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee.
The religious neutrality issue took an unexpected turn during question period, when the speaker asked PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee to remove a PQ pin from his jacket.
Partisan symbols are against the rules of the assembly, but Lisee pointed out that Liberal MNA David Birnbaum wore a kippa in the legislature on Wednesday.
“There shouldn’t be a hierarchy between some convictions and others,” Lisee said. “The Premier seems to be fine with the hierarchy where religious convictions are more important and have more rights than non-religious convictions.”
Birnbaum wore the kippa to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“I have to tell you: I and my colleagues were – and I think most Quebecers would be – rather surprised he would equate a political logo with a symbol of the Jewish people with 4,000 years of history,” Birnbaum explained.
The renewed debate over religious symbols comes six months ahead of the election – an issue that doesn’t appear to be dissipating any time soon.