Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, left, and Premier François Legault in National Assembly during yesterday's marathon legislative session on the immigration bill. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Quebec adopts controversial secularism and immigration legislation

Share

Quebec’s provincial legislature adopted a controversial law late Sunday that bans certain public servants, including teachers, police officers, prosecutors and judges, from wearing religious symbols at work.

The legislation known as Bill 21 also forbids anyone giving or receiving a state service with their face covered — largely seen as a measure targeting full-face Islamic veils.

Premier Francois Legault’s centre-right Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government used its majority and the support of the separatist Parti Quebecois to push through Bill 21 after a marathon weekend of deliberations at Quebec’s National Assembly.

The CAQ had to resort to a rarely used parliamentary mechanism called closure, which limits the opposition’s ability to debate proposed legislation, to speed up the passing of its two flagship legislative projects: an immigration reform, known as Bill 9, and the secularism bill.

Bill 21, passed with a vote of 73-35 at around 10:30 p.m. ET Sunday.

The centrist Quebec Liberal Party and the separatist centre-left Quebec solidaire voted against the bill.

‘Wrong and profoundly unjust’

A man holds up a sign during a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in opposition to the Quebec government’s newly tabled Bill 21. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Critics of Bill 21 argue the law targets religious minorities while the government says it affirms and preserves the secular identity of Quebec.

“In no way does [state] secularism mean the banning of religious symbols,” said Liberal secularism critic Hélène David.

The legislation is wrong and “profoundly unjust,” David added.

“It will prevent employment access to women and men who are qualified,” David said before Sunday’s vote. “Unjust because some women will have to make a choice between a promotion, their career and a profound and sincere conviction.”

First in Canada

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette asked all legislators to “convey the principles of state secularism with calm and respect.” (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Quebec Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette said the legislation, which codifies the principles of secularism and laicity in law, is a first for Canada and Quebec.

“What we’re doing is really important,” Jolin-Barrette said.

The Legault government introduced last-minute amendments toughening the law, making provisions for a minister to verify that it is being obeyed and to demand corrective measures if necessary.

Liberal member Marc Tanguay said the changes would result in a “secularism police.”

Legislation includes notwithstanding clause

The legislation pre-emptively invokes Section 33 of the Canadian Constitution, known as the notwithstanding clause, which allows federal, provincial or territorial governments to temporarily override, or bypass, certain rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The use of the notwithstanding clause means that the bill is inoculated against court challenges on grounds it violates fundamental freedoms granted by law.

However, Section 33 overrides can last only five years, when they are subject to renewal. And the Liberals vowed Sunday not to renew the notwithstanding clause if elected to government.

Reforming immigration

Bill 21 was the second law debated and passed over the weekend. In a 62 to 42 vote, the government used its majority around 4 a.m. Sunday to push through Bill 9, which reforms the province’s immigration system.

Jolin-Barrette’s bill gives the province more authority over who receives permanent residency in the province. The government says the new selection criteria will permit it to fast-track newcomers who better meet the needs of employers. Applicants in the old system were selected on a first-come, first-served basis.

The bill is controversial because it creates a legal framework that allows the government to force newly arrived immigrants to pass a French-language and so-called values test before becoming eligible for permanent residency.

While specific wording on the two proposed tests isn’t included in the bill, the legislation permits the province to institute the tests by way of regulation.

Also contentious is the provision in Bill 9 permitting the government to cancel roughly 16,000 immigration applications — some from people who have waited in limbo for years as their files languished under the old system. Those applicants will have to start the process over again.

Support from business groups

The federation of Quebec’s chambers of commerce saluted the bill’s passing early Sunday.

“The concerted efforts of the government will lead to a better link between the skills of immigrants and those required for positions to fill in Quebec companies,” the federation’s president, Stephane Forget, said in a statement.

“These changes will have a very important impact to facilitate the recruitment of future employees … and therefore, better integration of immigrants.”

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News

Share
Categories: Immigration & Refugees, Politics
Tags: , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

*