QUEBEC, September 10, 2013 ( – The federal Conservative government has strongly criticized the Parti Quebecois’ highly controversial proposed “religious neutrality” legislation, the text of which was released earlier today, saying that it will challenge the law if it is deemed a violation to religious freedom.


In a Twitter message, Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who also oversees multicultural policy, wrote “Very concerned re: proposed violations of religious freedom.” 

“Our govt will vigorously defend this freedom against any law that undermines it,” he said. 

The Charter of Values, if adopted by the provincial legislature this fall, would forbid public employees from judges down to daycare workers from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols. 

“The time has come for us to rally around clear rules and common values which will put an end to tensions and misunderstandings,” said Bernard Drainville, Democratic Institutions Minister responsible for the charter, in a statement. 

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“Our proposals will be a source of better understanding, harmony and cohesion for all Quebecers, regardless of their religion or origin.” 

After being leaked to media two weeks ago, the text of the proposed charter was delivered largely as expected, banning “conspicuous” religious symbols. It did, however, include an unexpected graphic detailing the kinds of religious symbols that will and will not be tolerated under Premier Pauline Marois’ banner of “religious neutrality” and “secularism”. 

According to the graphic, size matters. Employees may not wear large and visible religious symbols, including crucifixes, hijabs, burkas, kippas, veils and turbans. Wearing small religious symbols however, such as a tiny crucifix around the neck, or a small ring with the star of David, or an earring with a religious symbol, appears to be permitted. 

Reporters seemingly caught Drainville off guard with tough questions that revealed inconsistencies in the proposed charter. 

For instance, when asked if elected officials and courtroom witnesses would continue to swear oaths on the Bible, Drainville replied: “Oh, my God, we'll get back to you.” 

According to the proposed legislation, crosses that hang in the legislature and other public places will be spared being removed since they will be deemed as “cultural” rather than “religious” symbols. 

Drainville said that institutions could request to be exempted from having the charter apply to them for a period of five years, although he did not specify how the mechanism would work. 

Drainville was also reported to have said that private enterprises will eventually follow the path of the charter. 

The Marois government has provided Quebecers with a website and dedicated phone line to make known their views on the proposal.

Dedicated phone line: 418 646-8542