Laïcité : les libéraux en mission réparation | Related Commentary

A reminder of some of the challenges Minister Weil and the Couillard government will face as they develop their Charte de laïcité, but also some indication they that intend to use the previous Bill 94 of 2010 under the Charest government as the basis:

Au lieu d’une interdiction du port de signes religieux, le rapport Ouimet [an earlier parliamentary committee study on fundamentalism] propose une approche basée sur les demandes d’accommodement, avec des balises permettant de déterminer ce qui est raisonnable ou non.

Conçu comme une réponse du gouvernement Charest au rapport Bouchard-Taylor, le projet de loi 94 n’a jamais été adopté — même si les libéraux étaient majoritaires. La Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse avait critiqué ses « effets pervers dommageables » pour les musulmanes, à cause des dispositions sur le visage découvert. D’autres avaient au contraire dénoncé le principe de la « laïcité ouverte », jugé trop peu contraignant.

Quatre ans plus tard, il n’est pas dit qu’un projet de loi établissant le principe du visage découvert passerait plus facilement… ni qu’il réussirait le test des chartes. En novembre dernier, Mme Weil avait elle-même reconnu avoir reçu en 2010 des avis juridiques indiquant que l’obligation du visage découvert n’était pas conforme aux chartes.

Jeudi, elle soutenait toutefois que le projet de loi 94 aurait passé la rampe des tribunaux. « C’était une limite raisonnable, pas au nom de la neutralité, mais au nom de la sécurité, de la communication, de l’identification », a-t-elle expliqué.

Laïcité : les libéraux en mission réparation | Le Devoir.

Chris Selley has one of the more sensible commentaries on Premier Couillard’s intent to have a Charte de laicité and related issues to help have a more informed discussion of the issues:

Mr. Couillard’s pre-election pledge to release the legal opinions the PQ solicited on the secularism charter is an excellent start: Polls showed that while Quebecers supported the values charter, they also wanted it to pass constitutional muster. For the PQ, which was counting on it not passing constitutional muster — the better to foment grievance with Ottawa — that discussion was out of bounds. But with a majority government and no political capital invested in the issue, the Liberals can invite a far more intelligent discussion of how far, if anywhere, they need to go to protect secularism.

In the end, that would probably be healthier than walking away, or quickly passing some watered-down, mostly symbolic reaffirmation of Quebec’s secular nature. And it’s a debate I suspect the Rest of Canada would watch intently. In its opinion on the charter, Quebec’s Human Rights Commission warned that privileging gender equality over religious freedom in the dispensation of accommodations “would run counter to the individualized and contextualized approach that should prevail.” But a lot of people don’t like that approach. As we’ve seen in recent educational clashes between religious belief and sexual orientation — in Ontario’s and Alberta’s publicly funded schools, and at British Columbia’s Trinity Western University — many Canadians inside and outside of Quebec think religion holds too much sway in modern society.

There is no reason not to have such discussions, as long as you’re having it for the right motives. And there are few better motives than trying to convince Quebecers that there is nothing in their open, tolerant, diverse and perfectly secular society that necessitates the curtailing of anyone’s rights.

Chris Selley: Quebec’s values debate isn’t over | National Post.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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