By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - The Quebec province passed its controversial religious symbols ban and critics say the government snuck in an amendment that creates “secular police,” Canadian media reported Monday.
Bill 21 contains a clause that calls for unspecified “disciplinary measures” if employers do not enforce the ban, which covers all government workers who interact with the public, including teachers and bus drivers.
Critics of the new law include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who earlier said the Quebec government had no business telling people how to dress. Various Muslim groups said Bill 21 unfairly targets Muslim women who would have to remove their hijab in many public sector jobs.
Opposition politicians said the original bill contained no clause that would discipline employers who did not enforce the ban and law enforcement personnel were quickly dubbed “secular police” by critics.
”This potential to have this police, this type of police, wasn’t part of the debate at all,” said Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Marc Tanguay. The bill passed 10:30 p.m. Sunday during a marathon assembly sitting enacted by the government to speed passage of the legislation.
Quebec Solidaire MNA member Sol Zanetti wondered if authorities would actively pursue those accused of breaking the new law.
“Will there be police officers going after people to check if they have religious signs?” he said. “We don’t know. It’s not clear.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has voiced opposition to the bill, as has the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC).
“The NCCM firmly denounces the discriminatory underpinnings of Bill 21,” the council said earlier.
The MAC said under Bills 21, Muslim women will be “unjustly targeted” and that it “will give further rise to Islamophobia.”
The ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec government used its majority to ram through another piece of controversial immigration law change.
Bill 9 will require immigrants to Quebec, where French is the most common language, to pass a French language and values test. It also calls for the destruction of 18,000 current immigration applications, affecting about 50,000 people. They will have to reapply under a new system.