Quebec immigration minister defends secularism bill against claims its discriminatory

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Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Simon Jolin-Barrette speaks at a news conference Thursday, March 28, 2019 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette says he disagrees with prominent critics who have described his government’s religious symbols bill as discriminatory.

Jolin-Barrette is telling reporters he takes issue with comments from philosopher Charles Taylor and the Quebec Human Rights Commission at Tuesday’s opening of hearings into Bill 21.

He defended the government plan to oblige some public sector employees to remove their religious symbols while on the job, describing the government’s proposed legislation today as moderate and pragmatic.

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Quebec Premier-designate Francois Legault speaks to the media the day after after winning the provincial election, Tuesday, October 2, 2018 in Quebec City, Que.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government has said the legislation is inspired by a report by Taylor and historian Gerard Bouchard, who in 2008 recommended public sector employees wielding coercive authority _ such as judges, police officers and prison guards _ be prevented from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Taylor has since reversed his position on restricting religious symbols.

Bouchard, who is scheduled to address the hearings today, has criticized the government’s decision to include teachers among the public servants prohibited from displaying their religious beliefs.

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