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Quebec Considers New Restrictions on Wearing Religious Symbols, Clothing

By: for Pew Research Center on Nov. 22, 2013
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Quebec’s governing party introduced legislation Thursday that would ban public employees from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious garb, such as headscarves, yarmulkes, large crosses and turbans.

The so-called “Charter of Values” also would require all Canadians living in the province of Quebec to have their faces uncovered when they receive state-funded services, including health care and education. Several other countries have considered restrictions on religious attire, including France, which has banned full veils in public places andheadscarves in schools.

The Quebec proposal already has sparked protests and political opposition. Much of the public debate over the charter has focused on the measure’s potential impact on immigrants and their religious beliefs and practices.


Why is this happening in Quebec? News accounts suggest that political motivationsQuebec’s traditional identitywomen’s rights and apossible backlash against Muslim immigrants all are factors in the debate. Proponents of the restrictions on religious attire say they are necessary to preserve “the values of secularism and the religious neutrality of the state.” Opponents say they would infringe the freedom of religious minorities and immigrants, particularly Muslims.

The demographic trends underlying the debate are complex. The percentage of Muslims in Quebec’s population (3.1%) is about the same as the rest of Canada’s (3.2%), according to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. And Quebec actually has a smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than the rest of Canada does (13% in Quebec, 23% in the rest of Canada).

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