VANCOUVER, B.C., September 17, 2013 ( – “I do not see the charter in its current form going anywhere,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday, in his first public remarks about Quebec’s controversial proposed “charter of values” since its text was unveiled last week.

“I think the common sense of Quebecers will force this towards a reasonable conclusion as the debate progresses,” he said at a news conference in Vancouver. 

The Parti Quebecois’ charter of values would forbid public employees, from judges down to daycare workers, from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols. 

The proposed legislation has been condemned not only by religious leaders across the country, but from all sides of the political spectrum, in Quebec and nationally. 


Harper said he expects the proposed legislation to flop since the province’s three opposition parties have signaled to Pauline Marois’ minority government their opposition to the charter in its current form. But he also said that the federal government is prepared to challenge the charter if it passes. 

“If the Quebec legislature were to adopt anything that ultimately violates Canadians’ fundamental constitutional protections from discrimination, our government will take whatever action is necessary,” he said. 

The Conservative Party had first signaled its opposition to the charter last week, when Tory Employment Minister Jason Kenney, overseer of multicultural policy, criticized the proposed charter in a twitter. “Very concerned re: proposed violations of religious freedom,” he wrote. “Our govt will vigorously defend this freedom against any law that undermines it.” 

Harper’s comments come after a Léger Marketing survey released yesterday showed a split in Quebec public opinion, with 43% supporting the proposal and 42% against. Among francophones however, 49% backed the proposal while 34% opposed. Among anglophones, only 15% favoured while 72% opposed. 

The data suggests a significant drop in public support for the charter. A Forum Poll taken two weeks prior to the unveiling of the charter showed a substantial 58% support. 

Religious and pro-family leaders across the country have expressed serious concern about the legislation's impact on religious freedom and human rights. The Catholic Civil Rights League has said that the proposed sweeping ban of religious symbols would never be able to withstand a constitutional challenge. 

“The proposed ban on religious symbols is clearly an issue of religious freedom,” it stated in a press release.  

“A sweeping ban on the wearing of religious or cultural symbols would limit employees’ religious freedom, and it would probably also increase the sense of exclusion of minorities and of religious believers.” 

A vote on the charter is expected this fall. 

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