Religious symbols debate creates division among Quebec Solidaire members
The debate over banning religious symbols is set to be a major battle for the provincial government in the next session.
The CAQ campaigned on a promise to remove them from schools, courtrooms, and police stations.
This weekend, Quebec Solidaire began its own discussion on where the party stands regarding a possible ban on religious symbols in the province’s schools, courtrooms, and police stations.
“Obviously I’m against any ban on religious symbols for many reasons,” said Eve Torres, A QS delegate for Mont-Royal – also the first veiled woman to run in a Quebec provincial elections.
“I’m a feminist, I want social justice, so for me it’s unthinkable to restrict someone’s freedoms,” she added.
Torres faced attacks during her campaign – including a Montreal columnist’s claim that she is an ‘Islamist,” and a viral video that exposed two women defacing an election poster.
Now, what she wears is at the centre of a divisive debate within the political party.
The CAQ pledged to remove and ban religious symbols for certain public servants; Premier Francois Legault also promised to use the notwithstanding clause to bypass the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He also said he would amend Quebec’s Charter of Rights to ensure the legislation would remain in place.
Some at Quebec Solidaire say Legault’s plan doesn’t go far enough.
“We’re saying it needs to go even further than that,” said Lise Boivin with the Quebec Solidaire Secular Collective. “When you’re a public servant, you shouldn’t wear any religious symbols out of respect for the population.”
In November, a crop survey showed two-thirds of those polled are in total agreement face coverings should be banned in the public sector.
Boivin claims that within the party, the split is about half and half.
Quebec Solidaire’s official line is to follow the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Report which stipulates only those in positions of authority should be affected by a ban.
“We still think the Bouchard-Taylor position has a big advantage – that we can turn the page on the hurtful position,” said party co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
That, however, is under review. In March, Quebec Solidaire will vote to possibly change its policy.
“We think this is a form of discrimination that will tell a whole layer of the population that they are no longer welcome,” said Jason Phelps, Member of Quebec Solidaire for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
In his first address to the National Assembly as Premier, Legault promised the Quebec Government will move quickly to prohibit religious symbols.
The debate will likely dominate the Spring session that starts in February.