In a new row over religious minorities’ freedom in Quebec, a major-public sector union has declared its support for religious symbols in workplaces, denouncing a new government charter that is expected to advocate state secularism and ban of religious symbols, including hijab.
“We won’t go on a witch hunt to see who wears a hijab, kippa or cross. We will defend the right of our members to work,” Sylvain Mallette, president of the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (the independent Federation of Teachers), told the Globe And Mail.
“Preventing someone from wearing a hijab or kippa isn’t a way to ensure the secular nature of the state and its institutions.
“For us, respecting secularism has nothing to do with whether you wear religious symbols or accessories.”
Mallette’s comments followed media leaks about a new draft of a charter by the Parti Québécois government.
Expected to be released next week, the Charter of Quebec Values suggests protecting state secularism by prohibiting public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols in workplaces such as schools, hospitals and daycares.
The union warned to go to court if a teacher gets sacked due to his religious garb.
Deemed as the second largest public-sector union in Quebec, the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement represents around 32,000 teachers in the French-language school system in Montreal, around one third of the district teachers.
Other major Public-sector unions in Quebec didn't release comments on the chart, preferring to wait for the governmental proposals.
However, the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec, which represents provincial civil servants, has already expressed support for a ban on religious headgear for state employees.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
In a recent poll, most for the Quebeckers were found not concerned about religious accommodations.
Though it has the second largest Muslim population in Canada, the east-central province of Quebec is one of the most Islamophobic provinces in the country, where Muslims are facing different kinds of discrimination and racism.