Bernard Drainville, a member of the Parti Québécois, recently proposed a revision of the failed 2013 Charter of Values. Drainville seems to believe in the necessity of a secular society, but may be going too far in his attempt to prohibit the expression of religious beliefs in public institutions. The original charter would prohibit all public sector employees from wearing overt religious symbols or clothing.
The revised chater would only affect new employees including police, teachers, daycare workers, hospital employees and civil servants. University and CEGEP employees, as well as current employees in the public sector, would not be affected by the charter.
Drainville agreed that the cross in the National Assembly could be moved pending agreement from other members of the legislature.
According to Drainville, Quebec should be a secular society and he hopes that the revised Charter would cut down on religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
Banning religious symbols is a rather cosmetic but invasive way of removing religious influences in the public sector. Whether or not people wear hijabs, kippas or crosses, it does not serve as an accurate gauge the extent that public employees separate religious convictions from their work.
The Charter limits the freedom of individuals to express their beliefs. To some people, it is very important to be able to wear religious symbols in public.
Will all religious symbols be banned equally?
Given that Quebec has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic, it is worth wondering whether Quebecois authorities will turn a blind eye to Christian infractions. It is reasonable to assume that seeing crosses worn by members of the public has been highly normalized, and may go undetected by many people who see a crucifix as more of an accessory than a religious symbol.
Pierre Karl Péladeau, a main candidate for PQ leadership, has yet to comment on Drainville’s revisions. This says that others within the party may think that this is too strong a secular position for the party to take. If that is the case, I agree.
There could be possible alternatives to attain a more secularized state, and the party should focus on the alternatives that are least likely to create inequality and discomfort for Quebecers.