2nd Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 149, Issue 14

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Justice

Proposed Quebec Charter Affirming Secular Values and Religious Neutrality

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Today, Bernard Drainville, the Quebec Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions, will introduce the bill entitled Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests.

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What kind of leadership will the federal government show in response to this bill?

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Its usual leadership, Senator. I hope this reassures you. As most parties in the Quebec National Assembly, we oppose the charter in its current form. We will take every possible measure to counter it if it is passed. All Canadians should feel at home; our government will defend their rights regardless of their race, religion or origin.

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Senator Jaffer: Leader, I am very pleased to hear you say that all Canadians are welcome in our country. I agree with you.

My supplementary question is as follows: what resources will the federal government allocate to counter this bill?

Senator Carignan: First, we must wait for the bill to pass. As I have already explained, it seems that the majority currently in the National Assembly opposes the bill as tabled. However, if the bill does pass, we will do what we must to counter its application and to defend the constitutional rights of Canadians.

Any proposal that would curtail the right of people to practice their religion without discrimination gives us great cause for concern, and we intend to take action. I am sure you know that we will take action to ensure respect for Canadians’ rights.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Your answer is like saying close the gate after the horse has left the barn. I think that it’s too late after the bill has been passed to look at how we will counter it.

With the greatest of respect, this is an issue that affects all Canadians. It affects the fabric of our society. I ask that the federal government take the leadership to fight the divisiveness in our community. It affects all of Canada, and I am expecting the federal government to show great leadership now, not after the bill is passed.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: You are quite right and, as a Quebecer, I am very mindful of this bill. For the government, defending the constitutional rights of the people we welcome, especially in Canada, is fundamental because we share the same objectives.

 

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