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Protests took place outside National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon as community organizations expressed their opposition to the province’s religious symbols bill.

Several dozen people demonstrated in Quebec City, joined by Liberal secularism critic David Birnbaum and Quebec solidaire MNA Sol Zanetti.

“It's a matter of the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is being struck down very easily. Items of it are being struck down very easily by a government that has a simple majority. Where is the value of the Charter? This is something that affects all Quebecers,” said protester Ehab Lotayef.

In a statement issued before the demonstration, the Canadian Muslim Forum criticized the Legault government for wanting to pass Bill 21 without taking into account the strong objections and concerns expressed in Quebec and elsewhere.

Demonstrators of different faiths said religious groups that wanted to voice their opinion during hearings on Bill 21 were shut out.

“It's a project that stigmatizes the population that already lives discrimination, and we are here to say also that are rights and freedoms are not negotiable,” said protester Asmae Falah.

Bill 21 hearings were nothing more than a PR exercise, said Lotayef.

“There is no doubt in my mind or in anyone's mind who followed these hearings that these were done for the cameras and for the show only. There was no open mind, no open intention to hear or listen,” he said.

Banning religious symbols for a limited group of government workers is a fair compromise, said Premier Francois Legault

“It's the best way to make sure that we don't have racism, that we don't have extremist people trying to fight for something that's not reasonable. What we tabled is reasonable,” he said, adding that the majority of Quebecers support the CAQ bill.

“It's time that we put that behind us, that we turn the page,” he said.

It’s not so simple, said Birnbaum.

“How could the premier of all Quebecers, suggest that fundamental issues of equality, fundamental issues of how we live together can be decided by a simple look at polling results? That's absurd,” he said.

Bill 21, which would ban public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, has been roundly criticized by rights groups, including UN legal experts, the Quebec Federation of Women as well as Montreal's mayor, who said the bill targets minorities and violates freedoms.

Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette says he wants Bill 21, as well as Bill 9 on immigration, to be passed by the National Assembly as soon as possible.


- With files from La presse canadienne