Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois admitted today that some public servants could be fired if they insist on wearing a kippa, veil or turban - provided her government passes its Charter of Values.
Marois said Wednesday that a few — perhaps "five or six" — could find themselves without a job, but that there would be a plan in place to help them find work in the private sector. Asked repeatedly by reporters on details of that plan, Marois remained vague.
"We hope that no one is fired, that's not our intention," Marois told radio host Paul Arcand on 98.5 FM. "But if there are [people who are fired], we'll help them find a job in the private sector."
The goal, Marois said, would be to use exemption periods of up to five years to convince the public servants in question to conform to the law; in other words, to adapt their religious convictions to suit the government's dress code.
Earlier in the morning, Marois was evasive when pressed on whether or not some would be fired: "I don't think that'll be the case, because we will work on this issue with different institutions."
On Tuesday evening at a debate on the Charter at Vanier College, the PQ's candidate for the north-end Acadie riding, Évelyne Abitbol, said that some people would be fired if they insisted on wearing their religious symbols on the job after one year.
"I had never heard it so succinctly put, yes or no," said Vanier economics professor Ron Bianchi. "When the answer 'yes' came out, the assembly was just stunned."
Abitbol, a Sephardic Jew, later backtracked, saying hospitals would be given a five-year window to apply the charter.
CJAD 800 asked Marois Wednesday afternoon if some of these public servants would end up leaving Quebec if let go:
"I'm not afraid about that," Marois said. "We will respect all the religions. We will respect all the people. Here there is freedom...but the rules will be clear."
Marois made the comments at an East End job centre. In the next room were about a dozen job-seekers, mostly visible minorities, and four of them were women wearing hijabs.
Asked if the juxtaposition pointed to a problem with the PQ's plan to integrate immigrants, Marois remained optimistic.
"No. I disagree with you. If the people are very well-informed...the rules will be very clear. So if you choose to live in Quebec, you will have to respect these rules."
A poll released Wednesday evening puts the PQ nine percentage points behind Liberals.