PQ values charter to be tabled Thursday

QUEBEC – The Parti Quebecois intends to table its controversial plan on religious minorities Thursday as a bill in the provincial legislature.

The plan to limit religious clothing has already touched off an emotional debate during months of speculation about what the final version might look like.

The government has announced the broad strokes of its policy but sent mixed messages in recent weeks about the possible fine print of an eventual bill.

Now sources say the government will stick to its original intention of barring people from working in the public service while wearing hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes, and larger-than-average crucifixes.

Also, sources say, the plan might leave open the possibility of removing the crucifix from the legislative chamber, after critics accused the government of being hypocritical about secularism.

What’s still unknown is how many institutions the bill will apply to, and how many loopholes it might contain.

There have been musings about excusing some institutions from the plan, like hospitals, although the messages from the government have been contradictory at times.

The PQ has also hinted it might remove the opt-out clauses that it initially envisioned, after institutions across Montreal immediately declared they’d avail themselves of the right to an exemption.

Now Quebecers will finally see the details of a plan that, according to polls, has at least a plurality of support in nearly every pocket of the provinces.

But it’s still not immediately clear that the plan will ever come to fruition.

With only a minority government, the PQ now faces opposition parties dead-set against the project in its current form.

So the government must likely pursue one of two possible avenues: move toward a weaker bill to gain the support of another party, likely the CAQ; or stay the course and possibly launch an election campaign on the plan.

The Quebec Liberals pressed the government Tuesday to reveal the legal advice produced within the Justice Department about the constitutionality of the plan — something the government has refused to do.

Meanwhile, a Quebec anti-Islamophobia group said there has been a spike in racist incidents, which it linked to the charter debate. It said it received 117 complaints about such incidents between Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, nearly five times more than the 25 for the same period last year.

It said 114 of those incidents involved women wearing the headscarf or veil.

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