Quebec: Religious Symbols in the Workplace

Posted on December 4, 2013 by


Quebec: Religious Symbols in the Workplace

Quebec recently proposed a ban on religious symbols in the workplace. Their goal is to make a religion neutral government by banning religious symbols such as Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans, Muslim headscarves and large crucifixes from public work places. According to Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible, he thinks the new rules would “help unify society, ensuring the state’s neutrality and gender equality.” He goes on to add, “In a society that’s more and more multicultural, there need to be common rules and values,” Drainville said. How would the rules be enforced? By “common sense,” he replied. Many news articles covering the topic portray the ban in a negative light. Numerous stories are being told in the media that are reflecting the viewpoint of those being oppressed. Stories of men and women defending themselves and giving explanations to why they wear their religious symbol and what is means to them. Many of these stories talk about how it will affect jobs and how it could drive people away from Quebec. Some are fearful they will have to choose between their job and their religion. Very few stories side with the government, agreeing that the neutralizing Quebec is best. Stories with side of view are much more political and much less personal   People are active on twitter and social media sites, voicing their opinions on “Pros and Cons.” Those who disagree with the ban are fighting for freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Most common disagreements with the ban include the following:

  • Part of culture and heritage
  • Beauty
  • Personal choice
  • Freedom to wear what they want
  • “Part of who I am”
  • Doesn’t harm anyone
  • Proud of faith/Pride
  • A way to express love and loyalty
  • Religious symbol vs. religious practice
  • Impossible to separate your work from beliefs
  • Part of religion/religion attire
  • Clothes are clothes/ Modesty
  • Freedom of expression

Those who agree with the ban want to neutralize Quebec and form a secular society. The following are common occurrences in opinion based on those who wish to enforce the ban.

  • To be equals with his or her co-workers
  • Respect the dress code of the institution
  • Religion is a private matter-especially when in a position of authority
  • Secular society
  • A way to show separation between state and religion
  • Uniting people in Quebec
  • Decrease divisions and alleviate tensions
  • Not necessary for religious symbols to be in a public buildings

Overall, the media and most people involved are favoring the side of those against the ban. Most photos in the media show religious groups fighting for their beliefs. Photos of those for the ban are typically of political professionals or of rules of the ban. The proposal is quickly losing support. Recently, Montreal has been witnessing thousands of protesting Muslims, Jews and Sikhs marching together through the streets, standing up for their beliefs. The federal Conservative government stated that they feel so strongly against it that would fight the change in court. The Muslim mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, encouraged any religious minorities to move to his city where “we don’t care how you worship.” In conclusion, I have found that between pictures found in the media and the opinions of both sides, that if the proposal of the ban succeeds, there would most likely be more thousands of those religious minorities moving out of Quebec and into societies that will accept them for who they are and support their freedom of religion and expression. I personally think that it would be a mistake for Qubec to implement the ban. In order to gain their wish of a neutral, secular society they would lose talented doctors, teachers, therapists, family members, mentors, etc., which would take away a huge part of what Quebec has to offer.

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