QUEBEC — The Parti Quebecois politician behind the doomed values charter wants the province to adopt a modified version in order to fight ”extremists who commit crimes and kill people.”
Proceeding rapidly with such legislation is important because dilly-dallying would amount to giving way to religious fundamentalists, Bernard Drainville said Thursday.
”Are we going to allow extremists, who commit crimes, who kill people, to dictate the democratic choices we must make in a democratic society?”
”The answer is ‘No’. I won’t give them an inch. I believe putting this off until later is, in a way, giving in to extremists.”
Under the previous values charter, which never was enacted because the PQ lost the election last April, government employees would have been fired for continuing to wear religious symbols at work.
His new proposal includes a grandfather clause that would protect existing employees from being dismissed, although the clause would not apply to employees hired after the charter becomes law.
If the new charter is to become law, it will likely take several years. The next provincial election is set for September 2018 and there is no guarantee the PQ will win it or even that Drainville will be PQ leader.
He is one of several candidates in the PQ leadership race but the perceived front-runner is Pierre Karl Peladeau, the controlling shareholder of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B).
The new leader will be chosen in May.
Drainville said he believes the grandfather clause will reassure many Quebecers who were opposed to his original plan.
”That’s the lesson I’ve learned: that the main reason people were against the charter was that possibility of dismissal for wearing religious signs,” he told a news conference in Quebec City.
”I have heard you and I understand that you do not want people to lose their job.”
Newly hired judges, police officers, prison guards, hospital employees and teachers in primary and secondary schools would be affected by the charter, while employees at junior colleges, universities and municipalities would be exempt.
Although he believes Quebec needs to move now, Drainville acknowledges the chances of the current Liberal government acting on his recommendations are slim.
”I doubt very much that the Liberals will implement what I’m proposing today,” he said. ”It will take a PQ government to do it.”
Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said the Liberal government will come forward with some of its own measures over the next few months but that there is no need to rush.
”There are certain acts and measures we will implement but you can’t be panicked into them,” she said.
”You need to take the time to do it properly and to avoid using some extremely unfortunate events from abroad (the Paris shootings) to try to create a sentiment of urgency here.”
Drainville’s controversial values charter would have banned all public-sector employees, including teachers and daycare workers, from displaying or wearing religious symbols such as the hijab or the kippa.
The bill had not yet been adopted when the PQ called a general election in early March — a vote the sovereigntist party went on to lose April 7.
Support for the party appeared to reach new heights on the back of the charter, with polls suggesting the proposed legislation was popular with a majority of Quebecers.
Surveys also found, however, that most people in the province considered issues like immigrant integration to be far from a priority and well behind more pressing issues like health care, job creation and fighting corruption.
Drainville’s new prposal also calls for the creation of a research centre to look at religious fundamentalism and honour crimes.
He also wants to see a 1-800 number set up to allow Quebecers to report cases of forced marriages or virginity tests.