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Canadians Denounce Religious Symbol Ban for Govt Staff

Several faith groups in Canada denounced a bill that would ban civil servants from wearing religious symbols.

The government of Quebec has introduced a legislation to prohibit religious clothing for public sector staff, reports BBC. Under Bill 21, employees at schools, courthouses, hospitals, and even at state-run liquor stores would be barred from wearing crucifixes, hijabs, turbans, or kippas while at the workplace.

It is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion. —Justin Trudeau, Canada’s PM

Minister Bernard Drainville said, “The time has come to unite us around clear values and common rules.” reports The Huffington Post Canada. He explained that, “This is measured, balanced. Quebec is increasingly a multiethnic, multireligious society. This is a great source of richness. It’s also why we need clear rules.”

Bill 21 aims to promote the state’s religious neutrality, but there are some provisions that are confusing and those against the bill would use these inconsistencies to challenge the legislation. For example, the bill bans religious clothing, but those who are already wearing religious symbols are exempted. Also, existing crucifixes on public properties will be spared because of its history.

The Federation autonome de l’enseignement, which represents 43,000 teachers in Quebec, is preparing to challenge Bill 21. The teachers labor union said the proposed bill breached Canada’s rights charter.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, together with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, will use every legal means to junk Bill 21, reports Premier.

“Under the guise of secularism, this legislation is effectively a prohibition on wearing the hijab in the Quebec public service given the overwhelming number of people impacted will be Muslim women,” NCCM executive director Ihsaan Gardee said.

Even Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau lamented on the proposed legislation. He said, “It is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion.”

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