Posted on June 18, 2019

Quebec Bans Public-Sector Employees from Wearing Religious Garb

Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2019

Quebec will prohibit teachers, police officers and certain other public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job, making the French-speaking Canadian province the first North American jurisdiction in decades to enact such a ban.

The new Quebec law, which also covers judges and provincial prosecutors, applies to all religious symbols including the crucifix, the government has said. Civil-liberties groups have argued it will disproportionately affect religious minorities such as Muslim women who wear head scarfs and Sikh men who wear turbans.

The law exempts public-sector employees as long as they remain in their current positions. That exemption is lost if an employee is transferred or promoted, or if their mandate in a particular job ends. The law passed late Sunday in Quebec’s legislature by a vote of 73 to 35, after a marathon weekend session that saw the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec force an early end to the debate.


As a French-speaking province in predominantly English Canada, Quebec has long sought to protect its distinct language and culture, which has in recent decades included a commitment to the separation of religion and the state.


In addition to the ban on religious symbols for public servants, the new Quebec law requires anyone giving or receiving public services to have their faces visible. Critics argue that portion of the law targets the tiny minority of Quebecers who wear the face-covering niqab or burqa.

The Quebec law follows in the footsteps of some jurisdictions in Europe. France and some German states have imposed rules on religious garb for teachers, while France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have partial or complete bans on full-face coverings in public spaces.


Several Quebec school boards oppose the law, and Montreal’s English-language school board has said it wouldn’t enforce the rules if the law was passed. {snip}