As an organization committed to human rights and equity, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is deeply concerned that the proposed Quebec Charter of Values will discriminate against and marginalize women and men from equity-seeking groups and communities.
The fundamental right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression is guaranteed under Canadian and International Human Rights law including the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the 1976 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Canada ratified in 1976 after consultation with the provinces. These legal instruments have created a Canada where the right to observe or not observe a religion are both protected.
The prohibition on wearing religious symbols proposed in the Charter is a gratuitous attack on the human rights of Quebec residents. Further, the proposed legislation is deeply divisive and xenophobic, privileging some symbols over others. It is a thinly-veiled attempt to persecute Muslim women in the name of gender equality, and take away their right to make their own choices. It will exclude members of some of the most vulnerable communities from the economic, social and political life of the province. Muslim women, Sikh men, and Jewish men are among those who will be most affected.
Every government in Canada has a role and responsibility to foster an environment of respect for human rights and bring peoples together rather than divide them by negatively profiling communities and groups.