Religious symbols debate in Quebec

by Jeremy B on September 1, 2013 - 1:10pm

This article summarizes the recent debate about the government’s intention implement a "Charter of Quebec Values" that would ban workers in public institutions from wearing visible religious symbols. It also presents a questions & answers session where Jocelyn Maclure, a philosophy teacher at Laval University in Quebec City and former adviser to the Bouchard-Taylor commission, presents his opinion on the matter.

I chose to blog about the article “Q&A: Quebec's religious garb debate intensifies” because it is a subject I had briefly discussed in a high school ethics course and I wish to explore it in greater detail. The significant presence of this topic in the recent Quebec news and the continuous addition of different opinions in this debate make this story even more interesting for me. While I may not currently wear any prominent religious symbols, this debate may affect my ability to do so in the future.

Should public workers be banned from wearing religious symbols?

In my opinion, the government should not ban state employees from wearing religious symbols because it would infringe on their right to freedom of religion and expression. These workers should be allowed to show whom they are, and that includes their religious beliefs. The province of Quebec has been home to a culturally diverse population for many years now. The government has strived for a diverse population and encouraged immigrants to share their culture and express their beliefs by accommodating people of different cultures and religions. Imposing this ban would also leave many workers, who aren’t willing to give up wearing their religious symbols, without a job. This would certainly dissuade certain immigrants from coming to Quebec in the future, seeing as the province is considering limiting its acceptance of their religion. Banning public workers from wearing religious symbols would be a step in the wrong direction after many years of progress towards cultural and religious diversity and acceptance.

From another point of view, government workers should not be permitted to wear religious symbols because religion should be kept out of government. Since the quiet revolution, the public sector of Quebec has moved towards secularism in an effort to be neutral towards people of all cultures and beliefs. The government should be an independent body that is not associated to any religion or belief. While freedom of religion and expression are part of Quebec’s fundamental values, government institutions should not be involved in any sort of religious demonstration. Therefore, government workers should not be allowed to wear religious symbols while working.

Charles Taylor (member of the Bouchard-Taylor commission) recently commented that implementing this kind of ban "is like something we would see in Putin's Russia." How accurate is this statement? How does this proposed ban compare to restrictions currently seen in Russia?


Hello Jeremy B,

Your blog post on religious symbol use in Quebec is very well written. I like how you brought in components from opposing opinions to form your own.
I also like how you took the time to explain why religious symbols are unacceptable in certain scenarios, but have you ever wondered about people who wear humanitarian shirts to express their belief? Religious symbolism is a way to express ones self. However, so is picking out an outfit. I believe we have the right to self-expression and I understand that you share this same belief.
I’m going to take it a step further and bring in the idea of showcasing culture in public. I don’t see a difference between advocating for gay rights, hanging up an Irish flag in ones house, putting up a Christmas tree in the middle of downtown or choosing to wear yellow on Wednesday.
I also believe that religious clothing should be permitted in sports or public areas. It upsets me to know that Muslim girls in Quebec cannot practice most sports because the Administration does not allow Hijabs during game time. The rights to expression should be given to anyone that doesn’t put others in physical, mental or emotional danger.

Hi Jeremy,

Your post is very convincing and, in my opinion, very true. However, to me, whether government workers should be allowed to wear religious symbols or not is unrelated to the issue which is: Should public workers be banned from wearing religious symbols? I may have misinterpreted the purpose of this premise and for that I apologize in advance, but in my opinion, this would be an example of a "Red Herring".

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