Quebec Liberals table religious neutrality legislation, promise to better detect radicalization

WATCH: The Quebec government announced a series of broad measures to fight violent extremism in the province in an attempt to navigate the choppy waters of secularism and radicalization. Caroline Plante has more.

QUEBEC CITY – Premier Philippe Couillard appeared to be taking the high road Wednesday.

Opening the day’s debate with a solemn ministerial declaration, the premier said he was drawing on his own personal values of tolerance and openness to legislate on religious neutrality.

The party presented two new bills to help the province address issues of

Bill 62

The Liberals’ Bill 62 states that people giving and receiving public services must have their faces uncovered, meaning chadors would be fine, while niqabs and burkas would be prohibited.

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Officials could accept an accommodation request meeting security, communication and identification criteria.

The bill is an election promise and an answer to the Parti Québécois’ much-maligned values charter.

READ MOREQuebec Liberals clarify values charter stance

“It’s important to legislate now to avoid going back to where we were three years ago,” said Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

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“For us, what we’re presenting is respectful of individual rights.”

The PQ’s charter proposed to ban all conspicuous religious symbols from the public sphere, a proposal many slammed as discriminatory.

Now the Liberals are trying to navigate the choppy waters of secularism and radicalization.

Bill 59

They presented a second bill cracking down on forced marriages, honour crimes and hate speech.

“Quebec is no place for intimidation,” Vallée told reporters.

Watch:Public Security Minister Lise Theriault and Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced a 59-point plan to prevent, detect and act against those either considering or on the verge of committing acts of ideological violence.

Bill 59 introduces a procedure for reporting hate speech to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, a body which would see its powers — and possibly its budget — increased.

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READ MORE: How effective are government efforts to stop ISIS propaganda?

The legislation would also create an online list that would name people convicted of promoting hate.

“I think the cultural communities, the English-speaking community will be able to support the bills wholeheartedly,” said Liberal MNA Rita de Santis.

Is it enough?

Quebec’s opposition parties argued the measures were not enough.

“We think that people in an authority position should not wear religious signs, police officers for example,” said CAQ leader François Legault.

“Second, we think that it should be forbidden to preach against fundamental values, like Mr. [Hamza] Chaoui was doing.”

READ MORE: Controversial Montreal imam fuels secularism debate

Agnès Maltais from the PQ argued bills 59 and 62 are “a refusal of the Québécois consensus.”

Opposition parties said they will push to strengthen the two bills during committee hearings, likely held in the fall.

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