MONTREAL -- Reaction was swift and defiant towards the reported plan by the Parti Quebecois government to ban certain religious symbols from public institutions in the province.
Quebec's opposition called the reported bill "radical" and a tactic used to divert attention from the economy.
Internationally prominent McGill University professor Shaheen Shariff called the bill "illegal."
Moreover, workers in Quebec who routinely wear religious symbols told QMI Agency they would defy the reported bill, if adopted into law.
Manuel Dionne, spokesman for the Quebec minister responsible for the bill, wouldn't confirm or deny QMI's exclusive report that his office was crafting legislation that would ban symbols such as visible crosses, yarmulkes and hijabs in public institutions such as hospitals, schools and daycares.
He said on Wednesday that citizens can expect a bill to be tabled "around the time" that Quebec's legislature resumes in mid-September.
Dionne said the bill will seek to "frame" religious demands and to "affirm Quebec values."
Shariff, who is an associate member of the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, said the reported bill contravenes the "freedom of conscience and religion" section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"I would assume that people will immediately challenge the law (if the bill is adopted)," Shariff said. "In fact, I would even encourage people to bring a Charter challenge."
At a daycare centre near Montreal, close to half of the centre's 15 workers wear a hijab. They said they will defy any future hijab ban.
"When I came to Quebec, 10 years ago, I thought I was settling in a free country," daycare worker Zakia Maali said. "I feel like the government is telling to stop everything I am doing and return home."
Reaction wasn't all negative, however. Lucie Jobin, with a group called movement for a secular Quebec, said it "applauds the work done by the (PQ) government in this file."
The desire to codify so-called Quebec values is a pledge both the PQ and the second opposition party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec, propose.
CAQ leader Francois Legault said his party will soon propose its own version of a Quebec values charter, which won't be as "radical" as the PQ's but "will go much farther than the Liberals."
The Quebec Liberal Party said it would ban religious symbols among judges, Crown attorneys, prison guards and police officers.
What is unknown is what enforcement mechanisms will be included in the PQ bill.
- with files from Sarah-Maude Lefebvre and Genevieve Lajoie.