In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, politicians agree the tone of debate about religious symbols needs to change. Muslims, particularly Muslim women, have been targeted by a religious neutrality bill. All parties say they want this debate to come to an end, but can they work together?
When it comes to the government’s religious neutrality bill, all parties agree on one point.
“Open faces for public services. We can make it better and more precise and we’re working on this,” said Premier Philippe Couillard on Friday.
Last week, Couillard promised an amendment to Bill 62, which means people would have to uncover their face when giving or receiving a public service.
“With what happened last week, I think we need to unify and in order to do so, I propose today, a compromise,” CAQ leader Francois Legault said on Tuesday on the first day back in session.
Legault said the CAQ will no longer push for teachers to be included in the bill (he’ll campaign on that in 2018). In exchange, he wants the Liberals to add a ban for authority figures, like judges and police officers, from wearing religious symbols.
“I appreciate that Mr. Legault wants to appear that he’s working with us and that’s good. And let’s get to work,” Couillard said Tuesday in response.
The Parti Quebecois also supports the CAQ compromise, even if the premier wouldn’t commit.
“It’s an opportunity we haven’t had in 10 years, to just go to the heart of the issue, do these things, appease the debate,” said PQ leader Jean-François Lisée.
Political parties have been accused of intolerant comments in the past, so much so that the premier made a point of saying there is no link between the political rhetoric in Quebec and the shooter’s motives. However, politicians know the Quebec City mosque shooting has changed things.
One PQ MNA once said she felt uncomfortable to be served by someone wearing a religious symbol.
“What I was talking about was the malaise I have as a gay woman in front of all religions,” Agnès Maltais said.
However, she says she won’t say things like that again.
“If somebody has felt bad about these words, I’m sorry.”