Parti Quebecois Plays Politics With Fundamental Freedoms

Ottawa (November 07, 2013): The World Sikh Organization is gravely concerned by the Parti Quebecois’ introduction today of the much criticized secular charter. Bill 60, previously referred to as the “Charter of Quebec Values”, was tabled today as the “Charter Affirming The Values Of Secularism And The Religious Neutrality Of The State, As Well As The Equality Of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests”.

Bill 60 prohibits all public sector employees in Quebec from wearing overtly religious symbols.  Such “symbols” include the turban, yarmulke, and hijab, worn by the Sikh, Jewish and Muslim communities as expressions of their faith.  The Bill requires full compliance by all civil service organizations within one year of its passing.  Limited extensions to the transition period are available to certain institutions.

WSO Vice President for Quebec, Mukhbir Singh, said in reaction to today’s announcement, “This is an extremely sad day for Quebec.  Bill 60 has been tabled solely to divide the people of this great province.  It goes against the very heart of what it means to be Quebecois.” 

Mukhbir Singh also noted that, “Over the past several weeks, the Quebec government has indicated that it would like the private sector to adopt similar provisions.  This would effectively mean that all Sikhs, Jews, and Muslim women, who consider the covering of their heads integral to their faith, would be barred from employment in Quebec.”

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning added, “For an elected government to consider it appropriate to target specific religious communities under the guise of ‘secularism’ is a gross distortion of that concept. Secularism at its heart is about ensuring that the government does not favour one religious group over another. Bill 60 clearly shows favour to religious ideologies that do not incorporate articles of faith into their daily practice.”

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, General Legal Counsel for the WSO, stated, “The irony of Bill 60 is that it strips away gender equality rather than affirming it.  The Sikh turban, which would be prohibited under this Bill, represents a Sikh’s belief in the equality of men and women.”  Shergill noted that, “This Bill is clearly a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  If passed, the Quebec government will be hard pressed to prove its constitutionality.” 

Mukhbir Singh noted that the recent statements given by the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Quebec are encouraging. “We must remember that the vastly fair-minded people of Quebec still have a strong voice in defeating this Bill, through their MNA’s.  This is the time for opposition parties and people across the political spectrum to present a united front, so that this Bill can be defeated.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning Executive Director World Sikh Organization of Canada http://www.worldsikh.ca/ 1-888-976-1984 Ext. 1 ex.dir@worldsikh.org