MONTREAL – Quebec’s human rights commission says numerous provisions in the Parti Quebecois’ proposed secularism charter are unlikely to survive legal challenges.
It is recommending the proposed legislation be heavily modified before it can be deemed compliant with the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The legislation as is would forbid public employees from wearing visible religious symbols including hijabs, turbans, kippas and larger-than-average crucifixes.
The commission said it was forced to publish its memoir and discuss its position publicly today because it was leaked to a local newspaper.
It says Bill 60 is a recipe for multiple legal challenges and that proposals to amend the charter of rights will only weaken it.
Commission head Jacques Fremont says its mandate was to analyze the proposed legislation and it concluded it won’t bring the clarity the government is seeking.
He stops short of expressing any firm opinion on the legislation, leaving it up to elected officials to decide one way or the other.
The PQ government has insisted it won’t back down on the values charter and is ready to make it an election issue if need be.
The plan has fuelled heated debates in the province since it was unveiled last year and some opponents believe the minority PQ could use identity as a wedge issue in an election campaign.
Government hearings on the values charter began Tuesday and are expected to last two months. As many as 200 individuals and groups are expected to appear.
Another organization has added its voice to the debate, calling on the government to replace Bernard Drainville, the cabinet minister who is spearheading the legislation.
Quebec Inclusif says Drainville doesn’t understand the legal ramifications of Bill 60.
That group, a mix of federalist and sovereigntist voices opposed to the charter, says Justice Minister Bertrand Saint-Arnaud would do a better job.
Spokesman Remi Bourget says Drainville is rejecting irresponsibly by rejecting the legal opinions of the Quebec Bar and the human rights commission.