If nothing else, Pauline Marois’ charter of values does give us an opportunity to clarify our desire for a free, open and inclusive society.
So far, Thomas Mulcair has delivered a statement in which he called the charter “completely unacceptable” and here are Jason Kenney’s opening remarks to reporters at a noon news conference.
We’re responding to the release of a consultative document today by the Government of Quebec with respect to freedom of religion. Obviously, the separatist government in Quebec would like to pick a fight with the federal government at any time on any issue, but our focus will remain on the priority of Canadians, namely job growth and long-term prosperity. We believe the economy is a priority not just for Canadians, but the vast majority of Quebecers.
At the federal level, we believe our job is to make all people who live in this country regardless of their religious, ethnic, cultural background feel welcome, feel part of our country, feel like this is a land of equality, of opportunity and feel at home as proud Canadians. We are very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society and that would affect the practice of their faith. We are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion, based on their deepest convictions.
We will ask the Department of Justice, if these proposals become law, to closely review them and if it’s determined that a prospective law violates the constitutional protections for freedom of religion to which all Canadians are entitled, we will defend those rights vigorously.
In case there was any ambiguity in that last bit, Mr. Kenney later said “we would challenge any law that we deem unconstitutional that violates the fundamental constitutional guarantees to freedom of religion.”
Update 5:25pm. Elizabeth May adds her objections.
“Canada respects all beliefs as well as the right to reject religion. We are a secular society with clear divisions between church and state. While the Quebec bill is clearly motivated by an attempt to regulate to meet these expectations and values, it fails by attempting to legislate – and prohibit – personal expressions of faith. Yarmulkes, crosses on a chain, a turban are all daily expressions of faith protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
And John Geddes looks at how Messrs. Kenney, Trudeau and Mulcair framed their arguments.
Update 9:49pm. If you prefer video, CBC has Mr. Kenney and Mr. Mulcair, while the Canadian Press has Mr. Trudeau. Meanwhile, Conservative MP Devinder Shory calls the proposals “discriminatory and un-Canadian.”