Religious symbol ban may not apply to civil servants who already wear them, CAQ suggests

While the CAQ is holding firm on its proposed ban on religious symbols for some public servants, including teachers and police officers, the party appears to be softening the position it took last week.

In the days after their resounding election victory, the party suggested teachers who refused to remove their religious symbols, would be transferred to other jobs or even dismissed outright. 

Incoming Premier François Legault said he'd even consider invoking the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to ensure his new rules become law.

On Tuesday, CAQ MNA and former justice critic Simon Jolin-Barrette opened the door to possibly allowing for a grandfather clause, allowing those already in the civil service who wear religious symbols at work to continue to do so. The symbols would be banned, however, for new hires.

"One thing is for sure: our government wants to work with all the opposition parties to find a solution. We want to talk with them, we want to find a solution, and I think all the Quebecers want to find a solution about the religious signs," he said.

Thousands took to the streets of downtown Montreal on Sunday to protest the CAQ's plans.

Even former Prime Minister Jean Chretien weighed in earlier this week, saying Quebecers would not support any legislation that forced people to choose between their religion and their jobs.

National Assembly crucifix will stay

Meanwhile, Jolin-Barrette says arguably one of the province's most prominent religious symbols, the long-standing National Assembly crucifix, isn't going anywhere.

The crucifix has been perched above the speaker's chair since the 1930s, when it was given to then-premier Maurice Duplessis.

Jolin-Barrette referred to the crucifix as "an accessory", and not directly relevant to the wearing of symbols. He also suggested it was a part of Quebec's heritage.

But Furheen Ahmed, a teacher at Westmount High School who wears the hijab, says not every Quebecer shares in that heritage.

"Not everybody here comes from that history and that heritage," Ahmed says. "If we all did, it would make sense. But we don't.

"We can argue that in 100 years, we will be saying that our heritage is not just a crucifix, it's not just Christianity. It's lots of different faiths."