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Slaw: Quebec public sector employees will have to exercise restraint with regard to expressing their religious beliefs

Bernard Drainville, Quebec’s Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, has finally introduced legislation affirming the values of secularism and religious neutrality with respect to the province of Quebec. The name of the “Quebec Charter of Values” has changed, but the substance remains essentially intact.

Bill 60, Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests, was tabled in Quebec’s national assembly on November 7, 2013.

This blog post highlights some important points and differences between the initial proposal and the Bill.

Bill 60 proposes the following.

In the exercise of their functions, public sector employees will have to exercise restraint with regard to expressing their religious beliefs. The Bill creates duties of religious neutrality and restraint for public sector employees by forbidding during working hours the wearing of headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation. Existing employees will have one year to comply with this prohibition. However, employees hired after the law comes into force would be prohibited from wearing noticeable religious symbols from the day they start, and this condition will be deemed to constitute an integral part of their employment contract. The one-year transition period could be extended to four years for employees working in health and social services, municipalities, colleges and universities, but employers of these employees must detail in writing to the government how they intend to conform to the law by the end of that period. This transition period replaces the withdrawal clause contained in the initial proposal.

For more, read the full-text of the blog post on Slaw.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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