QUEBEC — The minister responsible for the status of women, Isabelle Charest, nuance its position: it is his comments on the hijab as a symbol of oppression, but if women choose to wear the veil, she fully respects their choice.
Just named by the prime minister on Tuesday, Ms. Charest has a public outcry, declaring that the wearing of the hijab does not correspond to its values, and that this was not a way for a woman to flourish. The official opposition called his remarks “very awkward”.
“The hijab is not something that women should wear,” ruled the minister, together with the prime minister François Legault.
“This means in any way the oppression of women, the fact that they must cover. This is not in my values”, she said, when questioned in English.
Ms. Charest is back on the issue Wednesday, at the entrance of the meeting of the elected members of its parliamentary group. A woman should be free to wear what she wants, she qualified.
“For women who have to wear, which are dictated by the religion if they have to wear the veil, for me, it is a sign of oppression. Now, I know that there are women who choose to wear it. It is their choice and I respect it fully,” said the triple olympic medallist.
These notes are involved in the debate already sensitive about secularism and the wearing of religious signs.
Recall that the government Legault is committed to drop in the next few weeks a draft law which will prohibit the wearing of religious symbols by the State officials in positions of authority: judges, policemen, prosecutors, prison guards and teachers.
On Wednesday, the interim leader of the liberal Party of Québec, Pierre Arcand, has called on the government Legault to the debate on religious signs in a manner “sensible”. According to him, Quebec is in need of tolerance and serenity.
“These are topics that require deep reflection, he asserted. We, we are for freedom of choice.”
The hijab is a symbol of oppression? It depends on the context, ” said the liberal member Kathleen Weil. “What I know of conversations I’ve had with women who wear the hijab, is that it is their choice. There are husbands who sometimes say: “perhaps I would have wanted that on arriving at Quebec, she don’t wear it, but it is his choice”.”
According to her, Ms. Charest has made statements of “very awkward”.
For its part, the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, has held that the comments of Isabelle Charest were “divisifs”.
“I think that is expected of a minister for the status of women, when she is in position, it seeks to create consensus, it seeks to bring together”, he argued in a media scrum.
Ottawa, the international Development minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, has also intervened in the debate. She reminded Ms. Charest that women have the right to choose “what they are doing to their bodies and how to dress”.
His colleague, the member Salma Zahid, who wears the hijab since the loss of her hair caused by a chemotherapy, abounded in the same sense. According to her, women should not even have to explain their decision to not wear the veil.