Montreal rally protests bill to ban wearing religious symbols on job

June 3, 2019

MONTREAL — Several hundred people took part in a May 5 rally and human chain near City Hall here to protest the Quebec government’s proposed Bill 21. The bill would ban the wearing of religious symbols — the Muslim hijab, Catholic crucifixes, Jewish kippah or Sikh turban — by many government employees, including teachers, court clerks and police. The government claims the law is a defense of the separation of church and state.

Bouchera Chelbi, a teacher who wears a headscarf for religious reasons, addressed the crowd. “If this law passes, I will not have the same rights as my colleagues,” she said.

“To ask not to be exposed to the religion of others is to be intolerant of religious beliefs,” Quebec Inclusion Coalition spokesperson and former professor Michel Seymore said.

“I am a feminist and my rights are being violated,” teacher Jennifer Alves Nadeau, told the crowd. “I do not wear religious symbols and I have the right to choose what I believe and what I wear.”

The Montreal City Council unanimously adopted a bipartisan declaration to denounce the bill. “No one should live in fear or uncertainty about their job or place in Montreal society because they choose to practice their religion,” the declaration says. Some Montreal suburb governments, including Cote-St-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West, have voted to defy the bill if it becomes law.