Opposition says Quebec religious accommodation law is still confusing

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Quebec releases guidelines on how to apply religious neutrality law
WATCH: Quebec has unveiled new guidelines on how to apply the Liberals' controversial religious neutrality law. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, opposition parties say the directives are too general – May 10, 2018

New guidelines for how to apply the Liberals’ religious neutrality law, known as Bill 62, are not likely to end debate at the National Assembly.

Opposition parties say the guidelines are too general and that they leave the decision-making up to the judgment of public employees.

READ MORE: Quebec releases criteria for requesting exemption under religious neutrality law

Describing it as a shambles, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNA and secularism critic, Nathalie Roy, says the Liberal government has released guidelines that are incomprehensible.

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“It’s 15 pages to explain to you what is acceptable or not. If you did understand that, you’re all geniuses because it’s not clear,” Roy told reporters.

“Which guidelines? There’s nothing in it. It’s the same thing that was there before — it’s what was written in the law,” said Parti Québécois (PQ) secularism critic, Agnès Maltais.

After divisive debate, the Liberal government passed Bill 62 in October without opposition support.

Later, the courts suspended the bill until the justice minister released specific directives on how the law should be applied.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Stéphanie Vallée announced that civil servants will examine each request for religious accommodation individually. Appeals can be made to the human rights commission.

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“If you’re not happy with the decision, well, go to the Commisison des droits de la personne, so it’s like a dog who’s running after his tail,” Roy said.

READ MORE: Quebec minister says ‘person’s choice’ to hide face – but you can be refused services

However, the Liberals say keeping the rules flexible is the only way the law can be fair for everyone.

“No case can be treated like the one before because there’s always a difference of context, of organization, of the person asking,” explained Premier Philippe Couillard.

“Nobody ever said this was simple; it’s not simple,” added David Birnbaum, Liberal MNA for D’Arcy-McGee. “I think the guidelines are really clear and are there grey zones? Life is full of grey zones.”

READ MORE: Trudeau weighing options on Quebec face-covering ban in wake of court challenge

The third opposition party, Québec Solidaire (QS), says there’s a political advantage to deliberately keeping those grey zones grey.

“It’s been 10 years we’ve been debating this, the Liberals have done nothing to solve the crisis and I’m going to tell you why — because they profit electorally from the dance, the electoral dance between them and the PQ-CAQ duo,” said QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

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He suggested they’ll keeping dancing around religious accommodations right into the election.

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