Quebec Premier Francois Legault defends secularism bill in video message

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says his government's secularism bill does not violate freedom of religion.

In a video released to his social media channels on Sunday, Legault says his government is taking a moderate approach by banning the wearing of religious symbols in some sectors of the public service.

The legislation tabled last week would prohibit public servants in positions of authority, including teachers, police officers, Crown prosecutors and prison guards, from wearing religious symbols.

The law also calls on a wide array of public servants to exercise their functions with their faces uncovered, and says people who want to receive public services must also show their faces when necessary for purposes of identification or security.

Legault describes the approach as a compromise, pointing out that his government included a grandfather clause that would exempt current employees from the restrictions as long as they remain in the same job.

He also reiterated arguments previously made by Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who said Bill 21 is an affirmation of Quebec's distinctiveness _ and its decades-long drive to separate church and state.