Quebec passes law barring religious symbols in public sector

June, 2019

The Canadian province of Quebec has passed a contentious law that bans public sector employees from wearing religious symbols - the Jewish kippah, Sikh turban or Muslim hijab, among others - on the job.

The legislation, widely known as Bill 21, passed in a 73-35 vote late on Sunday and takes effect immediately.

Quebec's right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec government, which holds a majority in the provincial legislature, invoked a seldom-used clause to limit debate on the contentious law.

Less than 24 hours after it was passed in a marathon session of the National Assembly, advocacy groups announced plans to file a legal challenge against Bill 21.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on Monday said they were asking the Quebec Superior Court for an injunction to bar the province from implementing the law.

The groups said in a statement that Bill 21 "is unconstitutional and will cause irreparable harm to religious minorities" in the French-speaking province.

Individuals who are already working for the government will be granted an exemption from the restrictions, provided they don't switch jobs.

"It is important that the paramountcy of state laicity be enshrined in Quebec's legal order," the law states.

Rights groups have decried the legislation as an attack on religious freedoms, accusing the province of unfairly targeting Muslim women in particular.

Source: MEE