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CanadaReligious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other

07:20  17 may  2019
07:20  17 may  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

Hearings begin today on Quebec's secularism bill as cracks appear in Liberal caucus

Hearings begin today on Quebec's secularism bill as cracks appear in Liberal caucus Renowned philosopher Charles Taylor will be among the first to speak during legislative hearings into Quebec's secularism bill that begin today in Quebec City. 

The legislative hearings, which wrapped Thursday, have highlighted stark differences among Quebec feminists — not just over what the bill means for On the final day of legislative hearings into a bill that will dictate who can wear religious symbols in Quebec , a young black woman wearing a hijab

The Quebec ban on religious symbols was enacted by Bill 21, "An Act respecting the laicity of the State" (French: Loi sur la laïcité de l'État), which was tabled by the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) on March 29, 2019.

Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other© Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette refused a request, made by the opposition, to study whether the law he's proposing will have a different impact on women compared to men.

On the final day of legislative hearings into a bill that will dictate who can wear religious symbols in Quebec, a young black woman wearing a hijab had a blunt message for the provincial government.

"I have the intention of breaking this glass ceiling you are in the process of creating and which will narrow my options and stigmatize me," said Idil Issa.

"If it takes me five, 10, 15 or 20 years, I will break this glass ceiling, and any other glass ceiling that will prevent me from reaching my potential."

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The religious symbols law 'will worsen an already strained relationship the francophone majority and ethnocultural minorities,' said Gérard Bouchard. Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other . Muslim women report spike in harassment, discrimination since Bill 21 tabled.

The religious - symbols bill would change Quebec ’s human-rights charter to acknowledge that the province Such challenges could eventually doom the religious - symbols ban . Then Quebeckers will find out The best of our journalism, hand-picked each day. Sign up to our free daily newsletter, The

Issa testified at the National Assembly Thursday, alongside Gabrielle Bouchard, the president of a prominent Quebec women's rights organization, the Fédération des femmes du Québec.

Together they argued the proposed legislation — which will bar some civil servants, including public school teachers, government lawyers and police officers from wearing religious symbols at work — violates basic feminist principles.

"This bill is fundamentally sexist," Bouchard said in her opening remarks. She said Muslim women will feel its effects most deeply.

"For us, the principle of 'our bodies, our choices' is a fundamental to keep in mind. This bill is a direct attack on women's choice and on our bodies."

Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other© Radio-Canada Idil Issa, a Montreal writer and activist, said the government is creating a new 'glass ceiling' with it's secularism bill.

Their joint presentation to lawmakers wrapped two weeks of hearings into Bill 21. Earlier in the proceedings, several women testified in support of the legislation, invoking similar feminist principles.

Muslim women report spike in harassment, discrimination since Bill 21 tabled

Muslim women report spike in harassment, discrimination since Bill 21 tabled There has been a sharp increase in harassment directed at Muslim women in Quebec since the provincial government tabled draft legislation to ban religious symbols in parts of the civil service, according to a women's advocacy group. Justice Femme, a Montreal organization that offers legal and psychological support to women, said it received more than 40 calls from women who wear the hijab after bill 21 was tabled in late March. The women reported a wide range of incidents, from aggressive comments to physical violence.

Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other . Hassanien says, on the other hand, it's important for her community to know the history of Quebec 's difficult relationship with the Catholic Church.

Quebec ’s contentious secularism bill banning religious symbols for teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority was voted Legault and his ministers have proclaimed that the bill will go down in history alongside other major pieces of legislation affirming the Quebecois

Indeed, the hearings have done much to highlight differences among Quebec feminists — not just over what the bill means for women's rights, but what it means to be a feminist in the first place.

2nd wave feminism vs. intersectionality

For some feminists, Bill 21 represents a continuation of the battle for gender equality that marked the political struggles of the 1960s and 70s.

It was only in 1964 that Quebec passed a law giving married women the same legal rights as their husbands.

"Not [much] more than 50 years ago, women weren't recognized as individuals in law. And full equality still hasn't been achieved," said Christiane Pelchat, the former head of a women's rights advisory body, the Conseil du statut de la femme.

When accommodations are granted to religious minorities, Pelchat said in testimony last week, it usually comes at the expense of gender equality. She believes the bill will ensure gender rights don't take a back seat to religious freedom.

CAQ government ignoring Montreal's diversity with secularism bill, Plante tells lawmakers

CAQ government ignoring Montreal's diversity with secularism bill, Plante tells lawmakers The mayor of Quebec's biggest city accused the provincial government on Tuesday of rushing ahead with a controversial proposal to restrict religious symbols without considering the harm it will cause Montreal's diverse population. At a legislative hearing in Quebec City, Valérie Plante said the government had failed to take into account how Bill 21 — the so-called secularism bill — will impact minority communities in general, and immigrant women in particular. "I am totally aware that Montrealers are not unanimous in their opinions about this bill," Plante said in her opening remarks to the committee.

Civil rights groups fighting Quebec 's religious symbols law have filed new evidence which, they say, demonstrates without a doubt it has "caused and The testimony, which the plaintiffs hope will sway the courts, describes how the ban leaves aspiring teachers with a narrowing scope of career options.

Bouchera Chelbi says Quebec 's secularism law specifically targets women, especially Muslim women. It's one of several constitutional challenges against the law, known as Bill 21, which bans certain civil servants — including public school teachers, government lawyers and police officers

Other feminists, though, consider the bill in line with the current retrenchment of women's rights in many conservative regimes around the world.

Bouchard, for instance, compared Bill 21 with Alabama's decision earlier this week to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other© Credit: Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press Gabrielle Bouchard, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, said the bill 'is fundamentally sexist.'

The differences align with universalist and relativist approaches to feminism, said Julie Latour, who testified in support of the bill for a group of lawyers who want to see secularism enshrined in law.

Latour places herself in the first camp.

"A women's fundamental right to equality is a universal aspiration," she said in a recent interview.

But she believes that project has been derailed somewhat by the rise of intersectional approaches to feminism:

"To me, that is not feminism."

The intersectional approach holds that race, sexuality, gender identity and socioeconomic background, among other factors, need to be considered in order to account for why women may experience oppression differently.

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It is at the core the position taken by the Fédération des femmes du Québec, which maintains the effects of the secularism law won't be felt evenly.

"This bill particularly targets Muslim women," said Bouchard. "They live the consequences of this conversation."

Issa provided her own definition of intersectional feminism when she opened her remarks by declaring: "I am a woman; I am black, and I am a Muslim. Because of who I am, I am subject to many barriers."

Who's the real feminist?

The hostility between the two camps became evident during the hearings. The universalists had a difficult time believing a woman would voluntarily wear a religious symbol, such as a hijab.

"To put 'hijab' and 'feminist' in the same sentence is paradoxical," said Leila Bensalem, a high school teacher who testified on behalf of a pro-Bill 21 group called Pour les droits des femmes (For the rights of women).

"It's as if the [Quebec Women's Federation] is fighting for oppression in the name of freedom."

Religious symbols ban pits Quebec feminists against each other© Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

At another point in the hearings, Liberal MNA Paule Robitaille confronted an ardent feminist supporter of the bill.

"There are lots of young women and older women who wear the hijab by choice," Robitaille said. "Isn't it a little doctrinaire, even reactionary, to tell women how to dress? Isn't it a little anti-feminist, because it marginalizes them?"

The Coalition Avenir Québec government, for its part, has said repeatedly the bill won't affect one minority or gender more than another.

But on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette refused a request made by the Liberals, Québec Solidaire and the City of Montreal to study whether the law he's proposing will have a differential impact on women.

The government is intent on passing the bill into law by mid-June.

Read more

New poll suggests one-third don't want politicians to wear religious symbols.
OTTAWA — While most Canadians firmly back the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and strongly support the idea of diversity, a new poll suggests a third of Canadians would ban their elected officials from wearing religious symbols. A majority of Quebecers canvassed in the survey agreed that federal, provincial and local politicians shouldn't be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job. Nationally, 49 per cent of respondents said they would not favour such a ban, but 37 per cent said they would support it.

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