QUEBEC – Eleven years after the Bouchard-Taylor report recommended the idea, Quebec now has a law on secularism that prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by certain officials in authority positions, overriding their fundamental rights.
And at the last minute, the Legault government announced that it would introduce monitoring and disciplinary mechanisms to ensure that the bill was respected. A move that the opposition immediately calls the arrival of a "secularist police."
The move took the opposition and observers completely unprepared and followed weeks in which the government explored the question of whether the new ban on religious symbols in Bill 21 would require stringent enforcement or sanctions, as enshrined in the Charter of the French Language.
In its original form, the government said it was up to the highest local administrative authorities – whether in a school or the police – to use them, and did not move on.
But in the final sprint, under the shadow of the closure, which lifted the normal rules for the passing of laws and a flood of opposition protests, the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion surprised Simon Jolin-Barrette all with new changes.
Now a ministry can verify that the law, which includes measures stating that services must be provided and received visibly, is applied and enforced by appointing a specific person to perform the task.
This person is authorized to take corrective action.
A further clause is added stating that employees employed by a ministry covered by law may be subject to disciplinary action or measures already included in their working conditions.
A third amendment also states that "all persons have the right to parliamentary, judicial and judicial services and to secular public services."
"The Secularism Police," liberal MNA chief Marc Tanguay shot across the floor at Jolin-Barrette. "You can now send inspectors to organizations to make sure people stick to the rules."
"Because of these changes, today is even sadder than I thought," added liberal secularist Hélène David.
"With these changes, we add not only an insult to the violation, but also the unacceptable: disciplinary action, monitoring the application of the law.
"It's harder to go any further in the shame and distress I feel tonight, and Quebec will remember that sad day when some of our fellow Quebecers will not feel well."
An adjutant of Jolin-Barrette quickly denied that the government was setting up a police force and said that it was responding to the desire of some groups to provide the bill with "additional powers of control".
The amendments further fueled the last day of the legislative debate. The mood was the same Saturday when the CAQ passed the bill on immigration reform by closing it.
But the vote took place in the end. The closing count to Bill 21, which took place shortly after 22.30, was against it with 73 votes and 35 votes.
While all the MNAs voted in favor of the coalition Avenir Québec, the solidarity MNAs of the Liberals and the Québecers have opposed it. QS MNAs expressed their anger by tuning with bright Quebec flags in their hands.
The only ally of the CAQ was the Parti Québécois.
"After eleven years, it was time to act," Jolin-Barrette told the House, justifying the government to pull out the big closure to break off the debate. "The government is finally acting on behalf of the Quebecers."
Even though it uses the clause of contradiction to shield its key clauses, Bill 21 is almost certainly challenged by a variety of groups.
And many groups, from school boards to communities like Hampstead, say they will refuse to use them.
The CAQ has been heavily criticized throughout the adoption process, yet has achieved what the PQ failed to do in 2013 when trying to pass a charter of values.
The CAQ Bill states that certain senior officials may not wear religious symbols such as hijab, crucifix, turban, or kippah when they are at work.
The list of these persons includes judges, police officers, prosecutors, primary and secondary school teachers as well as principals and deputy principals.
The bill contains a grandfather clause for employees who already carry symbols. They can keep them as long as they do not change school or be promoted.
For the rocky 60 hours, the bill was before a committee – where the minister infuriated the opposition by rejecting their questions and putting his own – Jolin-Barrette declined to submit any form of formal guidelines for the application of the bill or material changes submit.
In the penultimate week of the trial, in order to show that he can compromise, he reluctantly gave a vague definition of a symbol that created more confusion than enlightened.
According to the text of the amendment, the government proposes to define a religious symbol as "clothing, symbol, ornament, ornament, accessory or headgear", which is carried in conjunction with a religious belief or belief and can reasonably be termed religious. "
The lack of a definition was a sticking point for the law, as school authorities and trade unions told the government they could not apply the law without a clear definition.
"The Quebecers know what a religious symbol is," argued Jolin-Barrette on Sunday, as the debate in the House came to an end. "If people say we're aiming for one faith over another, that's wrong, all religions are covered."
Before the bill was passed, the opposition described Sunday as a dark day in the history of Quebec.
In an emotional last morning question time, Prime Minister François Legault threw away a flood of allegations about the bill – which overrides the basic minority rights with a different clause – is hostile to immigration and will forever endanger his personal legacy as prime minister.
Inter-Liberal leader Pierre Arcand reminded Legault that his personal mentor, René Lévesque, refused to abolish the normal rules of the legislature in 1977 in order to quickly transpose the French language charter into law.
In 1977, MNAs were allowed to debate legislators about the bill throughout the summer. In the case of Law 21 – as in the case of Law 9 on the Reform of the Immigration System on Saturday – the rules will be suspended and the debates deleted by the CAQ majority.
Bill 9 was adopted on Sunday morning at 16 clock after a 16-hour debate marathon.
"His legacy will be this lousy, non-applicable law trampling on the rights of minorities," Arcand shot across the floor at Legault. "Mr. Premier, we will remember that."
"Anyone in this room who will vote for Bill 21 will be responsible for this first major breach of the dike we proudly erected to protect the fundamental rights of all Quebecers," said Catherine Dorion, Quebec Solidarity Member.
David, who has been involved with the bill for weeks on Jolin-Barrette, quoted the French philosopher Albert Camus, who once said, "Democracy is not the rule of the majority, but the protection of the minority."
"The minister said yesterday that he was proud to have used the closure. Proud to have disapproved of the right of parliamentarians to enforce the law, proud of having flouted the rights contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, proud of having suppressed the rights of minorities.
"Does the minister really want to go down in history like that?"
QS Co spokesman Manon Massé said it was a "sad day" for Quebec.
"Losing the rights of our fellow citizens is not a glittering moment in the history of Quebec," Massé told the House. "In fact, I hurt my Quebec today."
Legault then replied, "Someone once said, beware of those who say they like people but do not listen to what people want."
But on the way to Question Time, Legault said that the next government in Quebec would not want to revisit the matter, even if the opposition says it is against the bill.
"We have five years to go," said Legault. "I assume that the Liberals, PQ, anyone … I do not think they'll be in power in five years, but they will not change that law," Legault told reporters.
The vote on Bill 21 will trigger another symbolic move. The crucifix that hangs above the speaker chair in the Blue Hall of the Legislature is on its way out.