legault making things up as he goes along
François Leg au lt’ s Coalition Avenir Québec government-elect hasn’ t been sworn in yet, let alone faced the National Assembly. And already, its proposed hi jab-and-kippah ban is unravelling like the proverbial cheap sweater, every time somebody pick sat another loose thread.
The CAQ would for bid provincial government employees in “positions of authority ,” including teachers, from wearing religious symbol sat work, such as the head scarf worn by some Muslim women and the skull cap worn by some Jewish men.
The proposal is popular. In a poll by the Angus Reid Institute before the Oct .1 election ,70 per cent of Quebec voters supported it, 47 per cent strongly.
But since the election, in another example of the improvisation that characterized Leg au lt’ s campaign, even the CAQ seems uncertain as to whether its ban would apply to present employees as well as new hires.
And the closer you look at the proposal, the more loose threads you see.
A La Pres se editorial helpfully suggested to the CAQ that it “extend a ha nd” to religious minorities with a“grandfather clause” ensuring that present employees would not lose their jobs because of the ban.
This would benefit the CAQ , by avoiding the bad“optics ”( ugh) of, say, tearful teachers being fired. Individuals discouraged from applying for a job in the first place would be less visible on the television news.
But they would still be victims of discrimination in hiring. Some extended ha nd.
And the government would still violate a fundamental freedom. The CAQ has conceded as much by saying it would invoke the rarely used“notwithstanding” clause in the constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override protection of freedom of religion if necessary, which it almost certainly would be.
So, Quebec would be the first jurisdiction in North America to violate freedom of religion by discriminating in employment a ga inst minorities. This might damage the province’ s reputation in there st of this continent.
And for what? The ban would not achieve the CAQ ’s stated objective of a“secular” Quebec.
The CAQ ha s vowed to keep the Catholic crucifix in its place of honour above the speaker’ s chair in the legislative chamber where the province’ s laws are made.
To Humpty Dump ty in Alice in Wonder land, a word“means just what I choose it to mean .” The Quebec variation applies to symbols.
Leg au lt this week repeated the argument that the crucifix in the Assembly is no longer a religious symbol, but now is a historical one.
Again making it up as he goes along, Leg au lt added a new wrinkle: the crucifix represents the role of British Protest ants as well as French Catholic sin the province’s history.
That the crucifix is a Protestant symbol may have been a revelation to Protest ants. But if you accept the Leg au lt doctrine that a symbol means whatever you find convenient, then government employees who wear religious symbols can simply argue, as the premier-designate says of the crucifix, that they’ re not really religious symbol sat all.
The absurdity doesn’t end there. If the CAQ accepted the suggestion of a grandfather clause for the ban, it could take more than 40 years to eliminate the wearing of religious symbols by government employees, until the last of those who now wear them retired.
Nor would the ban achieve another CAQ objective, of finally settling the“reasonable accommodations” debate in Quebec after more than a decade.
The ban would not affect the many other forms of religious accommodation. And it would inevitably be challenged in court.
Even if the courts upheld it, if the CAQ invoked the notwithstanding clause, it would practically guarantee that the ban would bean issue in every general election as long as it remained in effect. That’ s because the Charter includes a sunset requirement that the invocation of its notwithstanding clause be renewed every five yea rs.
That’ s one more thing of which Leg au lt, with his lazy schoolboy’ s a version to doing his homework, may have been ignorant.