PQ raises stakes in Quebec charter debate, signals willingness to trigger an election

Pauline Marois

QUEBEC — The Parti Quebecois has raised the political stakes on its controversial religion bill.

It has expressed a willingness to trigger an election on Bill 60, which if adopted would restrict religious clothing for employees of virtually all state institutions.

On Thursday, it declared the tabling of the bill a measure of confidence in the government. That meant the opposition would have forced an election by blocking its introduction.

It’s still unclear whether the PQ will continue, in the coming weeks and months, to treat the bill as a matter of confidence in future votes.

Premier Pauline Marois held a news conference after the bill was tabled and said she believes the proposed legislation will unite Quebecers.

“We want this debate to take place in a serene atmosphere — a serene and respectful atmosphere,” she said.

“It is a great moment for our society. This a is a beautiful day for Quebec.”

In tabling Bill 60, Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Bernard Drainville said it would guarantee the equality of men and women as well as the religious neutrality of the state.

The proposed legislation would force state employees to take off their headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans and larger-than-average crucifixes if they want to keep their jobs.

”In the exercise of their functions, personnel members of public bodies must not wear objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation,” the bill states.

Drainville also said Bill 60 will force employees of a public organization to have their face uncovered while offering services, as will people receiving the services.

Persons must ordinarily have their face uncovered when receiving services from personnel members of public bodies

”Personnel members of public bodies must exercise their functions with their face uncovered, unless they have to cover their face in particular because of their working conditions or because of occupational or task-related requirements,” the bill says.

“Persons must ordinarily have their face uncovered when receiving services from personnel members of public bodies.”

Marois’ PQ has only a minority government and will have two basic options: water down the bill to get it adopted, or preserve it for an election campaign.

The Liberals have been deeply critical of the plan and have called for its clothing provisions to be all but eliminated with the exception of people covering their faces while receiving state services.

The charter’s title is as follows: Charter Affirming The Values Of State Secularism And Religious Neutrality And Of Equality Between Women And Men, And Providing A Framework For Accommodation Requests.

Drainville said the title was selected by government lawyers who worked on the bill.

Read the original story here.