MONTREAL has witnessed the rare spectacle of thousands of protesting Muslims, Jews and Sikhs marching together through the streets.
They are protesting a proposed ban on religious headgear, part of what the Quebec government calls its “charter of values.”
The trigger is a heatedly debated plan by the ruling party, the separatist Parti Quebecois, to make the provincial government religion-neutral. It wants to do so by banning symbols of religious faith such as Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans, Muslim head scarves and large crucifixes from public workplaces.
The ban on religious headwear, the most disputed element of the proposed charter, would apply to anyone working in public institutions, including day care workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and police
Elsewhere in Canada, reactions have been fierce. The federal Conservative government says it will fight the change in court. The Ontario legislature has passed a motion of condemnation, and Naheed Nenshi, the Muslim mayor of Calgary, has invited religious minorities to move to his city where “we don’t care how you worship.”