AFT Bulletin, 2019-06-24

Quebec is Officially Secular!

An historic step forward, a great victory for secularism

The 16th of June 2019: An historic day for Quebec and a great victory for secularism and democracy: the National Assembly adopts Bill 21, “An Act respecting the laicity of the State.” Despite its weaknesses and shortcomings, in particular in matters of taxation, this Bill formally declares Quebec to be a secular State and enshrines that secularism in the Charter. […]

Just before its adoption, several amendments were made to the draft legislation:

Each of these three amendments constitutes an improvement and an enhancement of the law. The first adds clarity. The second is necessary because a law which fails to provide any means of monitoring or enforcement is ineffectual. But it is the third amendment which is most significant because it grants citizens a means of asserting a crucially important right that is rarely recognized: the right to secular public services provided by State institutions. This provision corrects, in part at least, the problem caused by the bill's so-called “grandfather” clause which would allow any employee hired before the draft legislation's publication date to keep their religious symbols. The parents of a pupil whose teacher wears a religious symbol may now require that the school provide their child an environment free of such symbols.

Opponents of the legislation have frequently and falsely accused it of violating rights. On the contrary, Bill 21 withdraws certain religious privileges—the privilege of being allowed to promote one's ideology in the public service—and it protects and extends rights in at least two ways. Firstly, by banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, it helps to protect the freedom of conscience of users and pupils. Secondly, this amendment enhances rights by adding a right to secular services, free of religious interference. […]

Read the full article on the AFT website.

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