Video: Charter of Quebec Values: PQ’s Jean-François Lisée open to ‘improvements’.

MONTREAL – Facing growing opposition to its proposed Charter of Quebec Values, the Parti Québécois government is willing to make “improvements” to it, the minister in charge of Montreal suggested Tuesday morning.

Jean-François Lisée defended the controversial charter at length, but declined to give any details on how to improve it.

Lisée said he was “first out of the gate” in predicting that the charter – which would prohibit public-sector employees from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols during work hours – would cause a “storm.”

“Let’s take a deep breath,” Lisée said. “This is another chapter in Quebec’s willingness to have a neutral state.”

He noted that the “opting out” provision in the charter – allowing municipalities and institutions to abstain from adhering to it for five years – arose out of a recognition of the Jewish General Hospital and Côte-St-Luc, which has a significant Jewish community.

Nonetheless, he reiterated that the five-year opting out would not be automatically renewed forever, describing it as a “transition period” for cities and institutions.

aderfel@montrealgazette.com