KippahFlash 90

The Canadian province of Quebec has introduced a bill that bans some public employees from wearing religious symbols at work, including kippahs, JTA reported on Thursday.

The measure is intended to reinforce the separation of church and state, but critics say the real target appears to be Muslims and their hijabs.

The Quebec parliament tabled the “secularism bill” on Thursday. It was introduced by the right-leaning coalition government of Premier Francois Legault.

Among those who would be affected are teachers, police officers and judges. Along with kippahs and hijabs, Sikh turbans and crucifixes would be prohibited.

Polls show most Quebecers supporting the legislation.

The Jewish community is wary of the legislation, noted JTA.

“We are very concerned with the new Quebec government’s statements regarding a ban on religious symbols displayed by government officials and displayed in public institutions,” said Harvey Levine, the Quebec regional director of B’nai Brith, suggesting the notion is “at odds” with Canadian values.

“We call on the [Quebec government] to avoid the slippery slope of diminishing fundamental rights and work instead to secure religious liberties for all Quebecers,” he added.

In 2014, a bill that would have banned the wearing of religious symbols, including a kippah, in public workplaces was raised for public hearings in Quebec.

The controversial legislation resulted in a rare cooperation between Jewish and Muslim organizations, after prominent Muslim groups joined their opposition to the bill which they said amounts to a form of "institutionalized discrimination", that ultimately creates two levels of Quebec residents.

The bill was shelved later that year, after the Liberal Party won the provincial election, defeating the separatists who pushed for it.

The new legislation has a grandfather clause that allows workers who now wear religious symbols to keep them on, and will remove a prominent historical crucifix in Quebec’s National Assembly, noted JTA. However, new public workers in “authority” positions could not wear religious symbols — they risk dismissal if they do not follow the ban.

In October 2017, the previous Liberal government passed a bill banning face coverings for those receiving public services.

A ban on Muslim face veils has been approved in recent years in several European countries.

France outlawed the wearing of a niqab (full face veil) - part of the burqa, or full body covering worn by Muslim women - in public in April 2011.

A parliamentary committee in Belgium voted to ban the burqa shortly after France passed its law. Italy has drafted a similar law.

An Austrian law that forbids any kind of full-face covering, including Islamic veils, came into force in later 2017, while a ban in Denmark on the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces came into force last year.