No one says they can’t, but a Montreal city councillor plans to present a motion at the next council meeting affirming that members of the elected body have the right to wear religious symbols.
Premier François Legault has said his new Coalition Avenir Québec government will soon introduce a “secularism law” that forbids some public employees — judges, Crown prosecutors, police officers, prison guards, and teachers — from wearing religious symbols at work.
Elected officials would not be affected by the ban.
But Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand said “there is still a lot of confusion out there about where the line will be.
“In terms of our own council, I thought it was important to make a statement that people from different religions — they may wear a (Jewish) kippa, a (Sikh) turban, a (Muslim) hijab, a (Christian) cross — are welcome to put their candidacy forward.”
He said a “motion of tolerance and inclusion” is especially important now, with the debate over the CAQ’s plan raging and the city of Montreal scheduled to hold two by-elections in December.
Among current members of Montreal city council, one — opposition leader Lionel Perez — wears a kippa. Rotrand said two other councillors wear crosses. He said he does not think any member of Montreal council has ever worn the Muslim hijab or Sikh turban.
He said he plans to present the motion at the council meeting that begins Monday.
Rotrand, elected under the Coalition Montreal banner, said he does not know yet whether any other councillor will second his “non-partisan motion” or whether it will gain any support.
In April, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she was “very open” to letting Montreal police officers wear religious garb such as a turban or hijab.
On Friday, Plante said she would wait and see the CAQ’s secularism proposal before taking a position.
Rotrand said he hopes his motion gets the attention of the CAQ government.
“I want them to know that in Montreal everybody speaks with the same voice,” he said.
“There may be some time to focus (the CAQ government’s) attention on the fact that Montreal recognizes that it is a multicultural, multiracial, multi-ethnic city. We are a cosmopolitan city and we look at what is in your heart, not what you’re wearing on your head.”
Any ban on religious symbols for public employees would be “so far from the reality of a big North American city that competes globally, that tries to attract the best talent, whose culture isn’t uniform,” Rotrand said. “Montreal, more and more, is comfortable with its citizens having multiple identities.”
Legault has said that secularism will be one of his priorities. “The vast majority of Quebecers would like to have a framework where people in authority positions must not wear religious signs,” he said a day after the election.
Montreal’s Dec. 16 by-elections are being held to fill seats left empty after two members of council were elected to provincial office in the Oct. 1 election.