The Premier of Quebec, Mr. François Legault, needs to allow the debate on secularism to run its course. This is an issue that involves citizens’ fundamental rights and it requires both time and genuine listening. This is especially the case as, for the moment, the government is being very elusive about how the law will be enforced and the sanctions that will apply in the case of non-compliance.
Yesterday, during question period, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Pierre Arcand, attempted to get more information from the Premier.
For example, who will ensure that a new teacher removes their cross? Who will decide whether a colleague can continue to wear their headscarf in the workplace? What will happen if a teacher refuses to remove their symbol? What will be the real consequences of your bill?
His questions were left unanswered.
The MNA for Marguerite-Bourgeois and Official Opposition Critic for Secularism, Ms. Hélène David, also raised concerns about Bill 21 on laicity.
This bill is full of unanswered questions. After six months of reflecting on the issue, the government has presented us with a new concept that no one saw coming, even in our wildest dreams- I am referring to the issue of wearing religious symbols that are not readily visible. Employers within government agencies will have to report those wearing invisible religious symbols. Common sense, according to the Minister. Common sense?! How exactly does his version of common sense apply to the small cross I am wearing under my blouse?
The Government House Leader replied the same answer he has been hammering out for days, without any nuance or additional information.
The Official Opposition is asking the government to stop using the pretext of a state of emergency to try to hastily settle the issue. The news headlines over the past few days reveal the issue’s highly sensitive nature.
Civil society needs time to express itself. Five weeks to allow people to have their say and to move ahead with studying the bill in parliament is simply not enough. We would like to remind the Premier that we live in a democratic society. People have the right to make their opinions known. If Mr. Legault is sincere and truly wants to have a calm, serene debate, he needs to stop throwing around the threat of time delays for such a sensitive issue, and start offering answers to questions that are completely legitimate.
—Pierre Arcand and Hélène David