Quebec wants to ban public servants from wearing religious clothing

A LARGE CRUCIFIX has long hung above the speaker’s chair in Quebec’s legislature. The first one was installed in 1936 to acknowledge the bond between the Catholic church and the government of Canada’s French-speaking province. It survived the “quiet revolution” of the 1960s against the church’s grip on public and private life. The church ceased to run the province’s schools, hospitals and social programmes. But politicians of all parties were loth to take down the crucifix, which was replaced with another in 1982. One premier reportedly said that he was no Joseph of Arimathea, the man who buried Jesus.

It may now finally come down. Last month the national assembly, as Quebec’s legislature is called, voted unanimously to move the mahogany, bronze and steel object to a less prominent place in the building. But that will happen only if another measure passes which is more contentious. The right-leaning provincial government of François Legault wants to ban newly hired public servants, including teachers, police officers, lawyers and judges, from wearing religious symbols at work. This would make Quebec the first jurisdiction in North America to impose such a ban.

Mr Legault claims to be enshrining in law the concept of laïcité, an uncompromising version of secularism with roots in the French...

Read More