World, Americas

Majority of Canadians against religious symbols law

But poll shows Quebecers support ban in public sector

Barry Ellsworth   | 06.08.2019
Majority of Canadians against religious symbols law FILE PHOTO


A new Canadian poll shows 59 percent of Canadians living outside of Quebec are against a new law in that province that bans some public sector workers from wearing religious symbols, it was reported Tuesday.

Among Quebecers, however, the majority strongly support the new law that came into effect June 16.

“The majority of Canadians disprove of the Quebec government introducing a law that prevents provincial employees from wearing religious symbols,” said Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, head of Forum Research that conducted the poll. “But in Quebec? The majority approves.”

With so many Quebecers backing the move, it is unlikely the law will be amended.

“The provincial government gets elected by Quebec voters, so given voters’ overwhelming support for the policy, it’s unlikely to be amended anytime soon,” Bozinoff said.

The law bans most public service workers, including teachers, nurses and police, from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, turbans, crosses and kippahs while on the job. Bill 21 only applies to new employees, not existing employees. The idea is to separate religion from state.

However, the law could be changed based on court challenges.

While a Quebec judge refused to suspend the religious symbols law in early July, two groups are seeking to have that decision quashed.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Civil Liberties Association moved to appeal the decision, asking for the law to be temporarily suspended until a higher court considers a challenge to the law.
Mustafa Farooq, head of the NCCM, said the judge’s decision mistakenly ruled the new law was not adversely affecting people.

“We disagree that the harm to people in Quebec is hypothetical – rather, it’s actual, inevitable and irreparable,” he said. “We believe that there is urgency in halting this law – that people are affected Bill 21.”

Amrit Kaur, a representative of the World Sikh Organization in Quebec, is a recent graduate teacher and she is looking for a job outside of Quebec due to the law.

“There are people like myself who have to choose between their faith and their careers,” Kaur said.

The Forum Research survey included 1,733 people and was conducted July 26-28.

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