March 29, 2019 — As promised at the time of being elected, François Legault’s government has just introduced a bill on the secular nature of the state, which essentially prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by state agents in a position of authority – police officers, special constables, bodyguards, prosecutors, judges, prison guards – but also by teachers and public school administrators.
As an actor deeply committed to social justice, against racism and Islamophobia and promoting fully democratic secularism, the Centre justice et foi (CJF) would like to denounce this bill that violates the rights and freedoms of citizens belonging to religious and racialized minorities. Not only does this bill once again stigmatize Muslim women wearing the hijab, but also sets dangerous precedents that contribute to the weakening of Quebec’s social fabric and common citizenship.
The crystallization of Bill 21 around the wearing of religious symbols does not in any way clarify the issue of secularism in Quebec. It cannot replace a collective, calm and thorough conversation on this subject or a rigorous and impartial analysis of the State’s institutional practices in order to truly conform to the principle of religious neutrality. This bill is therefore far from allowing Quebec to "turn the page" on this issue, as Mr. Legault claims. The CJF, therefore, exhorts the government to withdraw this bill, which is detrimental to the coexistence and building of a democratic, shared and supportive citizenship.
In the statement it has just published, the Centre justice et foi pleads in favour of withdrawing this bill, which is based on a distorted vision of secularism and is blind to the inequalities in the Legault government’s treatment of religions. Bill 21 deliberately chooses to discriminate against some more than others and, in addition, to make women, particularly Muslim women, carry more of the consequences of this decision. In this respect, it is part of a logic of systemic racism which it is important to understand and denounce.
The ban on religious symbols promoted by the CAQ is therefore not "neutral": it tends to favour Christians and discriminate against followers of other religious traditions, for whom the wearing of religious clothing and symbols is sometimes mandatory, if not preferred. It thus contributes to discrimination in the employment of religious minorities and racialised people who already face numerous injustices.
The CJF invites Quebecers to reconnect with the generous intuitions and intentions at the root of the Quebec collective project and with an open identity, capable of continually redefining itself in order to build a unique and plural state, capable of "dreaming in colour" and of implementing its audacities and social projects including all its citizens, regardless of their origins or their religious and spiritual convictions.