Quebec premier says he made ‘compromises’ on secularism bill to be tabled Thursday
The Coalition Avenir Québec government is expected to table its secularism bill, which would ban religious symbols for public employees in positions of authority as well as public school teachers, on Thursday.
On the eve of tabling the legislation, the premier called for calm.
François Legault hinted on Tuesday that he might invoke the notwithstanding clause to block the bill from being taken to court. The secularism legislation is expected to cause a firestorm, but on Wednesday, Legault said a great majority of Quebecers will support it.
“My objective is really to get together as many Quebecers as possible. That’s why I accepted to make compromises,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
What kind of compromises? Neither government house leader Simon Jolin-Barrette nor Education Minister Jean-François Roberge would say.
Constitutional lawyers say Quebecers should be concerned about the government using the notwithstanding clause.
“The take-home message is by using this clause right from the get-go, the government is circumventing fundamental rights,” explained Perri Ravon with the Juristes Power law firm.
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She added that the notwithstanding clause takes away any accountability the government has to defend its bill.
“It just sends the message to especially religious minorities and other minorities that their rights are so unimportant that the government doesn’t have to justify taking them away,” she said.
Amid the speculation, the final draft of the bill is expected on Thursday.
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