UN legal experts express concern over Quebec's religious symbols bill
Three experts appointed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations have expressed their “concern” over Quebec’s religious symbols bill.
In a letter to the Canadian mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the three UN legal experts, known as ‘rapporteurs,’ said that provisions of Bill 21 are likely to undermine freedom of conscience and religion and the principles of equality, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil Rights.
The bill would prohibit public employees in positions of authority to wear religious symbols like hijabs, kippas and crosses while at work. The ban would include teachers, police officers and judges, among others.
“We are, first and foremost, concerned about the lack of definition of religious symbols, which may lead to a discriminatory and potentially discriminatory interpretation of what constitutes religious symbols. Moreover, the display of religious symbols is a manifestation of religion or belief and, as such, any limitation of this freedom must be strictly defined,” the letter read.
The letter expresses concerns “about consequences for those people susceptible to being disadvantaged or excluded from a job or public position because of the potential effects of the proposed law.”
It goes on to state concerns for visible minority groups.
“Because religion often intertwines with racial and ethnic backgrounds, these legal provisions may have a discriminatory and disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic groups and thus lead to racial discrimination in the form of racial discrimination,” it read.
The Human Rights Council has established that freedom of thought, conscience and religion are fundamental rights.
The council has asked three diplomats to share the letter with the National Assembly.