Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Quebec’s incoming premier to consider “the fundamental rights of Canadians” before proceeding with a plan to ban some public employees from wearing religious symbols such as a hijab or kippa.
François Legault said the ban would apply to civil servants in positions of authority, including judges, prosecutors and police officers, as well as teachers. And he said he would be prepared to use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms if the ban is deemed unconstitutional.
Those who don’t comply would lose their jobs, a representative for Legault’s incoming government said Wednesday.
Trudeau urged Legault to be cautious before using the notwithstanding clause to overturn a court challenge.
“The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is there to protect our rights and freedoms, obviously,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa, adding that he believes the state should not “tell a woman what she can or cannot wear.”
“It’s not something that should be done lightly because to remove or avoid defending the fundamental rights of Canadians, I think it’s something with which you have to pay careful attention,” he said.
Trudeau added that the notwithstanding clause, “as I’ve said in the case of Ontario, should only be used in exceptional cases and after a lot of reflection and deep consideration of the consequences.”