Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban

September 18th, 2013

The Association of Suburban Municipalities, representing the 15 demerged cities, released a statement opposing the charter, saying the plan “reveals a conscious denial of the multicultural reality of Montreal and will only lead to division and exclusion. The plan threatens the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”

Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather said, “I am appalled. I believe this charter does not reflect the common values of Quebec society but rather the narrow and mean-spirited values of the government and violates both the federal and Quebec charters of rights in its attack on religious freedom. The ban on religious symbols has a disproportionate effect on members of religions where observant individuals are required to wear a certain form of dress versus those who are members of religions where such dress is not a requirement. I will do all that I can to oppose this.”

Hampstead mayor William Steinberg said publicly he will wear a very visible kippa if the charter passes. And the night before the charter was revealed, Hampstead council passed a resolution proposed by Councillor Jack Edery and seconded by Councillor Harvey Shaffer, saying the town believes in “the fundamental right of freedom of religion,” and that while there should be separation of church and state, “we believe the wearing of a kippa, Sikh turban or hijab is not an impediment to carrying out one’s duties as employees of the state. We reject the notion that people who believe in a deity are somewhat lesser citizens. We reject the notion that wearing an identifiable religious symbol that does not physically impede a person from performing their duties, is a basis for discrimination.”

St. Laurent mayor Alan DeSousa advised patience, in terms of how discussion of the charter evolves. “The legislation, as presented, might not see the light of day in its present form, so before we get excited about it, let’s take the time to see if it actually gets the support of the National Assembly.” DeSousa added that the charter, “as currently drafted, doesn’t correspond at all to the reality we live in St. Laurent. We’ve been in St. Laurent and in over 30 years, we’ve been able to find harmonious ways of welcoming people of all faiths, making them an integral part of our community, and active participants. We were the first to come out with a policy on intercultural integration that takes into account respect and harmony. That’s one of the reasons St. Laurent is a community where people choose to live.”

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In my opinion: I am in complete agreement with our mayor, Anthony Housefather, who assured residents at the last public meeting of council, that we will oppose the charter and do everything possible to prevent it from passing and would not enforce it if required to do so in the Cote Saint-Luc civil service. We must all speak out forcefully when basic rights are trampled. This is a despicable and offensive attack by the PQ government.