In advance of charter hearings, grassroots group seeks to put religious symbols in the workplace

MONTREAL – A grassroots organization brought together on Facebook is hoping to get Montrealers to show up to work Monday decked out in ostentatious religious symbols in advance of hearings on Bill 60, or the so-called Quebec Charter of Values.

“This is an untraditional rally or campaign I’d say,” said Sama Al-Obaidy, an organizer. “But really, what brought us here was that there were several cases of assault. I myself experienced this on the metro.”

Al-Obaidy says she was inspired to form the group – called Support Another – after a woman attempted to forcibly remove her hijab while she was commuting home during rush hour. She now hopes that by having people wear overt religious symbols it will spark a dialogue among Quebeckers. The charter would ban wearing ostentatious religious symbols at a public job.

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“People are appalled by it. They’re disgusted by it,” said Joanne Scullion, who works at the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital.

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Because the province funds the hospital, her workplace would be directly affected by the charter.

“We will lose an ER physician if this goes through.”

Some people here plan to go to work wearing symbols of a religion they don’t even share, because they say they found other values in common.

“Our beliefs are different,” said Patricia Duarte, a Roman Catholic who works at a travel agency. “But I found some points in common, love for others and supporting others.”

Some high-ranking government officials on the Island of Montreal have voiced staunch opposition to the charter. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he plans to tell the province to “mind its own business.”

Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg has issued a statement saying the entire city will resist the charter should it pass.

“What’s this government going to do?” he said. “If they can actually pass this thing, are they going to get into a situation where they have massive revolts? I don’t think so.”

The charter’s author, Minister Bernard Drainville, defends the measure as a progressive one. Hearings on it in the National Assembly are slated to begin Tuesday.

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