Quebec government tables controversial values charter

QUEBEC – The Quebec government tabled its controversial values charter in the national assembly on Thursday — a bill that could eventually send Quebecers to the polls.

Bernard Drainville, the Parti Quebecois cabinet minister responsible for the proposed legislation, said Bill 60 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.

”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.”

The government and the opposition parties argued before the bill was tabled as to whether it should be considered a motion of confidence in the government.

PQ house leader Stephane Bedard said it should be, while his Liberal counterpart, Pierre Moreau, argued the opposite because the contents of the proposed legislation were still unknown.

Pauline 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 Secularism And The Religious Neutrality Of The State, As Well As The Equality Of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests.

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

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