Canada's freshly appointed cardinal warned Monday that Quebec's controversial values charter is making its people increasingly afraid of each other.
Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, among a new crop of cardinals selected Sunday by Pope Francis, spoke out against proposed Parti Quebecois legislation that will be the focus of public hearings beginning Tuesday.
The PQ government's plan would ban public-sector employees _ including teachers and doctors _ from displaying or wearing religious symbols in the workplace.
``We're dividing people,'' Lacroix told a Quebec City news conference when asked about the charter, a document tabled last fall by the minority PQ government.
``People are every day more afraid of each other. Instead of bringing us together and bringing our cultures together and sharing the richness of who we are, we're starting to build walls and be afraid of each other.
``And I don't like that. I don't think that that's where humanity should be going.''
Bill 60 would force state employees to take off their headscarves, kippas, turbans and larger-than-average crucifixes if they want to keep their jobs.
Lacroix, one of 19 men named to the senior post in the Roman Catholic Church, also said the universal charter of rights states that people have the right to profess their faith in private or in public.
``And that needs to be upheld everywhere,'' said Lacroix, whose powerful new position enables him to participate in choosing the next pope.
The government proposal will go under the microscope in Quebec City starting Tuesday, when public hearings into the document are set to begin. Individuals and groups have presented briefs and will be given an opportunity to express their positions on the subject.
The Quebec government argues the charter would shield the province from what it describes as increasing fundamentalism and says it would provide protection against gender discrimination.
Polls have suggested the PQ proposal is relatively popular in the province, but opposition to Bill 60 has been vocal.
The government has faced criticism for the plan, including anti-charter protests and calls from ex-PQ premiers Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry for the project to be watered down.
Bill 60 has been condemned by federal parties, with the exception of the Bloc Quebecois, as being unnecessary and infringing on religious freedom.