Quebec status of women minister calls Muslim head scarf symbol of oppression

Quebec's new minister responsible for the status of women says the Muslim hijab is a symbol of oppression.

Speaking to reporters after being named to the portfolio Tuesday, Isabelle Charest said the Muslim head scarf does not correspond to her values and is not a way for women to flourish in society.

She said women should not wear the garment. She objects to it because it represents a command for women to cover themselves, she said.

Her statements come as the Coalition Avenir Quebec government prepares to introduce legislation prohibiting public servants in positions of authority _ including teachers, from wearing visible religious symbols including the hijab, kippa and turban.

Pierre Arcand, interim leader of the Opposition Liberals, said today that tolerance and calm are needed in the debate prompted by the Coalition government. He said his party favours freedom of choice.

Charest, a former Olympic short track speed skater, was elected for the first time on Oct. 1. She is also junior education minister.