Ban on Religious Gear in Public at Heart of Quebec Election

Victory for ruling party could outlaw yarmulkes, niqabs, turbans and such in Canadian province's public buildings.

AP

If Monday's election in Quebec goes to the ruling Parti Quebecois, the kippa, niqab (veil), turban, prominent crucifixes and other conspicuous religious accessories may be barred from sight in the province's public buildings. These restrictions are at the heart of PQ's Charter of Values, the centerpiece of the party's campaign, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The charter points up the sharp contrast in national identity between Quebec and the rest of Canada, a contrast directly related to the difference in language. Canada goes along with the multicultural model of society in the English-speaking world, while Quebec follows the ideological secularism of France, which banned conspicuous religious gear in public schools in 2011.

The Charter of Values hoists a vision of secular society, forging an identity which Quebecers can rally around, says Antonia Maioni, a political science professor at Montreal's McGill University. That identity will be very much at odds with Canadian values of multiculturalism, of religious freedom being entrenched and protected.

Sixty percent of Quebecers support the charter, according to polls. However, Muslim groups report a recent increase in hate crimes being carried out against them, including women having their niqabs ripped off in public.

But the ban on yarmulkes, turbans, niqabs, crucifixes and the like is by no means a certainty; pre-election polls forecast PQ to get outpolled by the Liberal Party, which contends that the restrictions in the Charter of Values are illegal.