I will defend minority rights in face of Quebec religious-symbol law says Trudeau

This Thursday, Montreal- prime Minister Justin Trudeau added his voice to the growing opposition to Quebec’s new law prohibiting police officers, teachers and others in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols

When addressing reporters in Washington, D.C., Trudeau said he will defend minority rites everywhere in Canada with the support of his government “We do not feel that it is a government’s responsibility, or in a government’s interest, to legislate on what people should be wearing,” Trudeau said

Since the law was implemented, Trudeau commented for the first time but did not specify what action his government would take to protect minority rights. Critics have it that the Quebec law unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious minorities.

He said “We have a strong Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and we will certainly ensure that our views are well known and continue to defend Canadians’ rights.

Quebec government lawyers pleaded for more time as the legal challenge of Bill 21 scheduled to be heard Thursday in a Montreal courtroom was pushed back to July 9. The plaintiffs are seeking an instant judicial stay on the sections of the law that restrict religious symbols at work and require that state services be given and received with the face uncovered.

Justin Trudeau’s words came as Quebec’s largest school board voted to delay application of the secularism law for at least a year to allow for deliberation with parents, unions and other stakeholders on how to enforce it.

That action prompted a reproach from the provincial government, which insists that the law takes effect immediately.

On Thursday Premier Francois Legault told reporters in Quebec City that he is sure the school board will fall in line. “The law was adopted legitimately, and we will apply the law,” he said, noting that those who held their jobs before the bill was tabled are protected by a grandfather clause.

Critics to the secularism law grew since the Coalition Avenir Quebec government invoked closure to pass it before the end of the legislative session.  McGill University’s faculty of education issued a statement on Wednesday saying the law goes against the faculty’s inclusive values.

Faculty dean Dilson E. Rassier wrote. “McGill University’s faculty of education is a place that upholds fundamental academic freedoms and represents a richly diverse community. As such, we will continue to support our students in their quest to become the best teachers and educators they can be.” and Bill 21 suggests to a portion of our students that they are not welcome in public schools because of their religious cultural practices

The Commission scolaire de Montreal In a motion passed Wednesday outlined plans for consultations with governing boards, parents’ committees, unions, and various associations to determine what changes need to be made to board policies to respect the law.

The board chairwoman, Catherine Harel-Bourdon and an outspoken critic of the new law spoke to reporters on Thursday that it is clear the law will need to be applied, but the board is hoping the government understands the issues with application.

She said further that the board has 191 schools and nearly 17,000 employees and there is a need to train hundreds of managers to enforce the law and avoid having it applied unevenly in different schools.

Due to the amendment one liberal critic accuses the government of creating a “secularism police.” As the government modifies the bill Shortly before Sunday’s vote, providing for inspectors to ensure the new law is applied and specifying that employees who flout the law risk disciplinary measures.

Base on the amendments, risk reprisals, if they do not comply with the law adequately and consistently the system puts a “tremendous burden” on managers says the school board.

Even before the bill was tabled, the English Montreal School Board voted not to implement the planned restrictions on religious symbols, and Thursday a spokesman further said the issue will likely come up for further discussion at a meeting next week.

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