'Institutional discrimination': Anger as Quebec extends ban on hijabs and turbans for teachers and police
By Barfi Culture Team
28th March 2019

Quebec's provincial government tabled a bill yesterday to ban school teachers, police officers and other public officials from wearing religious garments such as the turban or the hijab.

It is the strongest attack on religious freedom in Canada and will likely set off a fierce backlash from Sikh, Muslim and Jewish communities across the country.

Last year thousands of people marched through Montreal in protest when the new provincial government was elected and proposed this law.

But Francois Legault, whose party won 74 of Quebec's 125 seats in last year's election, has taken a hardline against immigration and diversity in the province. He also wants to force new citizens to a French language and Quebec 'values' test.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada said it was "deeply disappointed" with the Secularism Bill.

"This ban will have a deeply negative impact on Sikhs in Quebec," said its President Mukhbir Singh. "The wearing of the turban and the Sikh articles of faith is not optional for Sikhs and a ban on these articles of faith is, in effect, a ban on Sikhs in positions of authority."

"We fear that this ban will have a trickle-down effect into the private sector and young Sikhs who are born and raised in Quebec will find it even more difficult to find jobs in the province."

It has called on politicians across Canada to denounce the "deeply discriminatory" law.

The ban would apply to Quebec Crown prosecutors, judges, teachers, principals, police officers and other public employees. Some current public workers will be exempted from the ban as long as they hold the same job.

Canadian Muslims have largely had the same reaction.

Lifestyle blogger Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed wrote in the Montreal Gazette: "Rather than focusing on divisive identity politics, Quebec politicians should be working to develop policies that make the province stronger and more cohesive. This law will prevent many members of religious minorities in Quebec from participating fully in Quebec society."

She called it "institutional discrimination" and said Quebecers needed to band together to send "a loud message" to elected officials that the bill would disrupt thousands of lives.

Over 100,000 Muslims and 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec will be impacted by the ban on religious clothing and symbols.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday: "It's unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion."

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