RASSEMBLEMENT POUR LA LAÏCITÉ (Alliance for Secularism)
Seven Organizations in Support of Draft Bill 21 on Secularism
A video of the RPL press conference, held May 6th 2019, is available.
Montreal, 6th May 2019 – One day before the beginning of parliamentary committee hearings studying Draft Bill 21, “An Act respecting the laicity of the State,” several citizen groups have decided to express their support for the Bill.
These seven organizations, which collectively represent thousands of members, have been active for several years, some for more than 50 years, in support of the cause of secularism.
“Ever since the Quiet Revolution, the principle of secularism has been at the heart of the modernization of the State but has not yet been formalized in legislation” explains Michèle Sirois, joint coordinator of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL) or Alliance for Secularism. “As a society, we made French the common language and today we speak proudly of the children of Bill 101. In a few years, we will speak with similar pride of the children of Bill 21, children to whom Quebec has finally offered an education which is secular, neutral and open to all, irrespective of their religious affiliation” adds Michèle Sirois.
The member groups of the RPL are especially pleased that the principle of secularism will be inscribed in the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, thus stipulating that fundamental rights and freedoms must be exercised while respecting State secularism. “Furthermore,” adds Claude Kamal Codsi, joint coordinator of RPL, “the Rassemblement fully supports the four principles which form the basis of State secularism and are defined in article 2 of the draft legislation: separation of State and religions; religious neutrality of the State; equality of all citizens; and freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.”
Secular Schools, A Requirement of a Pluralistic Society
All member groups of RPL support the government’s decision to include schools in the bill. Knowledge is necessarily secular, and such knowledge must be made available to pupils in an environment free from religious or political interference.
The duty of teachers to exercise restraint and discretion with respect to their political convictions has been recognized for a long ago time now. Draft Bill 21 adds religious convictions to this duty of restraint, so that teachers will perform their duties while respecting the freedom of conscience of their pupils and of those pupils’ parents.
The member groups of RPL are all in agreement that, for the sake of consistency, this duty of neutrality should be extended to include all school personnel, from childcare services to specialized services such as those dealing with learning disabilities,” Mr. Codsi points out.
Given that the government’s proposed legislation would allow some teachers to display their religious affiliation, the RPL considers it imperative that, in order to protect the freedom of conscience of pupils and parents, a mechanism be provided by which parents and their children can, if they so desire, receive services which respect State neutrality. This is a corollary of the draft bill, but this right of parents and their children to a neutral education should be made explicit in the text of the law.
A Partially Secular State?
Sooner or later, all components of the State must be made secular and the freedom of conscience of all citizens, in their dealings with the State, be protected by the State’s obligation to be secular and neutral. Nevertheless, we understand the government’s desire to proceed with caution, especially in the North American, multiculturalist context where the objectives of secularism are so poorly understood and where multireligious displays have always been preferred as a form of neutrality. In our opinion, secularism is a more effective means of achieving social harmony and cohesion in multireligious societies,” concludes Mr. Codsi.
Several Organizations Before the Parliamentary Commission
Several of the member organizations of RPL will be appearing before hearings of the parliamentary commission where they will provide a more detailed explanation of their reasons for supporting Draft Bill 21. Their briefs will be made available on the website of the National Assembly immediately after the completion of hearings.
List of Member Organizations of RPL and Dates of Parliamentary Commission Hearings
- Pour les droits des femmes du Québec (PDF Québec), 7th May 2019
- Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois (MNQ), 7th May 2019
- Association québécoise des Nord-Africains pour la laïcité (AQNAL), 7th May 2019
- Nadia El-Mabrouk et Leila Bensalem, 8th May 2019
- Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ), 15th May 2019
- Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL), 16th May 2019
- Laïcité capitale nationale
- Libres penseurs athées—Atheist Freethinkers (LPA)
- Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre (SPQ libre)