The debate over wearing religious symbols in this province is creating divisions not just between political parties, but also within them — two high-profile Liberal MNAs admit they don’t personally support their own party’s stance on religious neutrality.
Former education minister Sébastien Proulx denied rumours that he is thinking about quitting politics over his party’s position on religious signs.
“I’m not looking for a job,” Proulx said. “I like what I do. I’m happy doing what I do.”
He added that his decision not to run for the Liberal leadership “has nothing to do with the debate in caucus.”
Proulx and fellow Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette admit their personal positions on religious symbols are “different” from their party’s position. However, Barrette said: “In our caucus, there’s no tension on that.”
Barrette added, “We were part of the debate. At the Liberal Party, within the Liberal Party, we can openly discuss and we do discuss about all the options.”
The Liberal caucus recently took a firm stance against any ban on religious symbols for public employees in authority positions. On Wednesday, Barrette said he wanted the Liberal caucus to support a ban for public employees, that the CAQ’s plan to include teachers goes too far.
“The only acceptable compromise would have been Bouchard-Taylor 10 years ago. We’re not there anymore,” Barrette said.
The Bouchard Taylor report called for a ban of religious symbols for police officers, judges and Crown prosecutors and removing the crucifix from the National Assembly That’s out of the question, said the government house leader.
“It was always clear for the premier that it was a historic symbol and it will be kept there,” said Simon Jolin-Barrette.
Jolin-Barrette said he’s waiting to table his secularism bill until he speaks with all parties, but it’s unlikely a consensus will be reached. While the Liberals oppose the plan outright, the Parti Quebecois wants the government to go further and include daycare workers as well as teachers.
And Québec Solidaire hasn’t yet taken a position at all.
“It is a divisive issue inside Quebec society and inside a lot of political parties, so I think it’s normal and it’s sane that in Québec Solidaire, we’re actually taking the time to reflect on the issue,” said Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
However, with 10 years of reflection on this issue already, the CAQ says it wants to put the debate to rest by passing legislation this spring.