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Women, Religion and the Quebec Charter of Values: An Historical Perspective

Beth A. Robertson, Ph.D., Carleton University


Since it was first announced in May of 2013, the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, or Bill 60, has launched a flurry of commentary, with some prominent public figures lauding it as a much needed step in addressing reasonable accommodation in the province, and others, such as the Quebec Human Rights Commission, denouncing it as an affront to civil liberties. If you are a CBC radio junky such as myself, you have probably already heard many of these debates, such as this one, or, more recently, this.

For anyone unfamiliar with the bill and what it proposes, it is intended as a means of promoting secularism in Quebec’s public sector. Its most controversial tenets include enforcing the “religious neutrality” of state-funded educators and health care workers, banning the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols by public servants (including the hijab, niq?b, or burqa, the kippah, turbans,  as well as larger crosses and religious pendants) and disallowing the covering of one’s face when providing or receiving a state service. (If you’re really keen, take a look at the Charter yourself here.)