MONTREAL — The Parti Québécois (PQ) national council adopted a resolution at its convention Nov. 10 that effectively prevents anyone wearing religious symbols from running for the party.
The resolution states that future PQ candidates must make “a solemn declaration” not to wear headgear or accoutrements that identify a religious affiliation.
Premier Pauline Marois said she was “ill at ease” that the originally proposed charter of Quebec values banned religious symbols among public employees, but was silent on those elected to the National Assembly.
Section 38 of Bill 60, introduced on Nov. 7, allows the legislature to establish rules “to govern the wearing of religious symbols by members.”
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Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville, who is responsible for the charter, later said the intention is that the National Assembly establish a rule that unanimous consent of members be required before a member wearing overt religious attire be allowed to sit.
The PQ caucus had already adopted a policy promising that members won’t wear religious symbols as long as they are in office.
The PQ is inviting other parties to follow suit.
The party’s position is at odds with an opinion expressed by Quebec International Relations Minister Jean-François Lisée, who is also responsible for anglophones and the Montreal region, before the charter bill was tabled.
He said that public employees should appear religiously neutral because they represent the state, but MNAs need not be because they represent the people who elected them.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) denounced the resolution as exclusionary and a break with the tolerance that characterized the PQ’s early history.
“This resolution is a disavowal of the principles of inclusiveness upon which René Lévesque built the PQ,” said Jonathan Kalles, CIJA’s associate director for government relations in Quebec.
“It sends a troubling message that practising Jews and members of other visible minority faiths are unwelcome in the PQ.”
He believes the PQ is “cynically” hoping to build popular support for Section 38 of Bill 60.
“Unsurprisingly, no PQ MNA has ever worn a religious symbol. Just like the charter itself, this resolution seeks to resolve a non-existent problem,” Kalles said.
“It is deeply offensive for the PQ to claim that a religious symbol compromises the neutrality and integrity of an elected official or any public employee,” Kalles said.
Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, spiritual leader of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, excoriated the PQ decision in an article posted on FaithBlender.com and reprinted in this week’s CJN.
“Pauline Marois has now made it clear: as a kippah-wearing Jew, I don’t belong in the PQ. Well, I’m glad to be excluded. I’d never want to be part of a party that shamelessly undermines rights and courts bigots; I’d never want to be part of a party that will trample on democracy in order to further its political goals,” he writes.
FaithBlender.com is a website shared by Rabbi Steinmetz, Catholic priest Father John Walsh, and Muslim Imam Ziyad Delic to offer their perspectives as religious leaders on current issues.