April 15, 2019 3:36 pm
Updated: April 15, 2019 8:29 pm

Montreal mayor, opposition leader team up to denounce Quebec’s secularism bill

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and opposition leader Lionel Perez have joined forces to voice their feelings about the CAQ government's proposed Bill 21. They say the bill doesn't reflect Montreal's proud diversity. Global's Gloria Henriquez explains.

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Elected officials at Montreal’s city hall are speaking with one voice against Quebec’s proposed secularism bill.

Mayor Valérie Plante and opposition leader Lionel Perez presented a bipartisan declaration today saying Montreal practices open secularism and its bylaws are neutral, regardless of the religious convictions of those who make them.

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READ MORE: Protesters denounce Bill 21 at Montreal rallies

Plante told a news conference the history of Montreal has been marked by waves of immigration that continue to shape the city. She said the city is open and inclusive and has taken great pride in building this reputation.

“We cannot put it in jeopardy,” Plante said.

Perez added that the joint message sends a signal to the provincial government that Bill 21 doesn’t reflect Montreal and Quebec values.

“We see this in the DNA of Montreal, that we have this concept of ‘Vivre Ensemble’, that we have a history of social harmony and cohabitation when it comes to religions and different ethnicities,” Perez explained.

READ MORE: Bloc Québécois tells Ottawa to stay out of debate over Quebec secularism bill

Bill 21 would prohibit public servants in positions of authority — including teachers, police officers, Crown prosecutors and prison guards — from wearing religious symbols on the job. A grandfather clause protects people already hired in those positions.

Plante was critical of the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s use of the notwithstanding clause to override potential charter challenges, saying it only serves to short circuit debate.

Perez questioned the provincial government’s contention that there is a consensus in Quebec against religious symbols for teachers and other public servants. He said the Montreal council’s declaration speaks to a different consensus: “We want to be able to be judged on our actions, our convictions and not simply on what we wear.”

Perez, who wears a kippa, was emotional as he addressed council. “I’m a Quebecer as much as everyone else,” the interim leader of opposition Ensemble Montréal said, tears in his eyes.

WATCH BELOW: Valérie Plante slams Bill 21

The CAQ wouldn’t comment on the joint declaration.

Plante said she is placing her hopes in the upcoming parliamentary hearings for Bill 21, when the government will have to hear opinions from opponents before it can become a law.

–With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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