A bill banning the wearing of religious symbols, including the Jewish kippah (skullcap), in public workplaces was raised for public hearings Tuesday in the Canadian province of Quebec.
If passed, religious Jewish men working as engineers, accountants, lawyers and hospital doctors will be faced by a conflict of religion versus state.
The province includes the city of Montreal, home to thousands of hareidi-religious families, with hundreds of religious Jews working in public positions.
The controversial bill has elicited an unusual cooperation between Jewish and Muslim organizations, after prominent Muslim groups joined their opposition to a bill they say amounts to a form of “institutionalized discrimination”, that ultimately creates two levels of Quebec residents.
Jewish organizations posted harsh condemnation of the intention to pass the bill.
B’nai Brith Canada, in an announcement attacking the Quebec government decision to pass the bill on for discussion, emphasized that the proposed law breaches the fundamental freedoms anchored in Canadian and Quebecois Conventions of Freedoms and Rights.
“The proposed law discriminates against the religious by negating their religious freedom,” charges the ad.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has similarly slammed the bill, saying “the government, which defines itself by law as the supreme decision maker in the field of religious freedom, is acting in opposition to the goal it is supposed to have as a free country.”
“This contradiction, and the feeling that the free country forbids true freedom of religion in the public sphere, are an example to the mistaken nature of the bill,” continued the ADL. “The League, with its proven record of defending human rights, intends to get involved in the issue if necessary.”
The Quebec branch of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs also came out against the bill in a position paper on the topic, demanding Quebec withdraw the bill which threatens to turn the province from a model of freedom to one based on discrimination.
According to the paper, the bill is “an awful solution to a non-existent problem,” and puts “grave limitations of basic freedoms.” Further it is argued that the bill breaches “the basic freedom of religion anchored in the Convention of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec and Canada, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Outrage over the bill comes on the heels of a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada of late. Less than a week ago a Winnipeg provincial court ruled that a high school student who lit a 15-year-old Jewish student’s hair on fire with a lighter while saying “let’s burn the Jew” did not carry out a hate crime, prompting disbelief and outrage from Jewish groups.
Two days later, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) Anchor Evan Solomon faced accusations of anti-Semitism after questioning the appointment of Vivian Bercovici as Canada’s new ambassador to Israel due to her being Jewish. The comment came in an interview with Foreign Minister John Baird.