National Muslim advocacy group calls Quebec’s proposed charter ‘discriminatory’, urges opposition parties to reject it

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – September 11, 2013) A prominent national Muslim civil liberties organization says details revealed yesterday by the Quebec government only confirm fears that institutionalized discrimination will become the ‘new normal’ in Quebec.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has consistently called on the Quebec government to honour both the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which guarantee freedom of religion.

« Hearing Minister Bernard Drainville defend the right of public servants to wear small religious symbols, celebrate Christmas in public institutions, and maintain the cross in the National Assembly indicates that this new proposal has less to do with secularism and more to do with institutionalizing discrimination, » says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM Executive Director.

« Despite its ostensibly neutral language, this proposal directly targets public servants who may wear certain religious attire because they hold a sincere belief that it is their religious duty to do so. This freedom has been guaranteed by the Supreme Court of Canada and it is minority communities in particular who will be unduly harmed by this proposal. »

Minister Drainville yesterday outlined how the Quebec charter of rights and freedoms will prevent public servants, health care workers, public school teachers, university staff, and public daycare workers, from wearing any type of « conspicuous » religious attire or symbol.

« We heard lip service offered about treating Quebecers equally, but clearly this proposal will create two classes of citizens. Those who can express their faith and those who simply can’t because the State has decided a hijab, kippah, or turban are too ‘conspicuous’. This forced homogenization sends a harmful message to our children about diversity and inclusion, » says Gardee.

« We urge Quebec’s opposition parties to categorically reject these exclusionary proposals that will undermine social cohesion, equality and fairness. Further, opposition parties should note that these proposals could negatively impact the province’s already weak economy by further discouraging skilled professionals and others from seeking to work and live in Quebec. »

NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.

Amira Elghawaby, Human Rights Coordinator, 613-254-9704
Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 613-853-4111