Hearings on charter of values begin in Quebec City

Above: The bitter debate over Quebec’s controversial Charter of Values has entered a new stage, with two months of public hearings beginning in the provincial capital. Mike Armstrong reports.

QUEBEC – Public hearings on legislation aimed at cracking down on state employees who wear religious symbols have started in Quebec City.

READ MORE: On the agenda: Week 1 of the charter hearings

In his opening remarks at the hearings on Tuesday, the minister responsible for Quebec’s controversial charter of values said that the government will not back down on the proposed bill.

Bernard Drainville said Bill 60 will proceed with legislation aimed at cracking down on state employees who wear religious symbols.

Bill 60 would force public-sector employees to take off their headscarves, kippas, turbans and larger-than-average crucifixes if they want to keep their jobs.

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The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has approved the option for Muslim women in the force to wear a police-issued hijab headscarf while in uniform. Supplied, EPS

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Individuals and groups have presented briefs and will be given an opportunity to express their positions on the subject.

The hearings are scheduled to last two months and could feature testimony from as many as 200 individuals and groups.

The Quebec government has argued that the charter would shield the province from what it describes as increasing fundamentalism and says it would provide protection against gender discrimination.

READ MORE: Support for Quebec Charter of Values holds steady as concern grows

Polls have suggested the Parti Quebecois proposal is relatively popular in the province, but opposition to Bill 60 has been vocal.

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The hearings start just a day after Canada’s freshly appointed cardinal, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, warned that the values charter is making Quebecers increasingly afraid of each other.

READ MORENew Quebec cardinal condemns charter of values for its divisiveness

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