Simon Jolin-Barrette: six days of debates on secularism

The National Assembly will hear 36 speakers debating for six days the draft law on secularism of the State. A consultation broad enough to go around the issue, said Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who said he was open to change the “terms” of his bill, without specifying which.
From May 7 to May 16, organizations representing police officers, teachers, lawyers and other figures of authority targeted by the prohibition to wear religious symbols will march in the National Assembly. Historian Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, who published the Bouchard-Taylor report 11 years ago, will be heard. Mayor of Montréal Valérie Plante and former Liberal MP Fatima Houda-Pepin will also be in attendance. “It’s still substantial, it’s a broad consultation,” said Minister Jolin-Barrette in an interview with the Sun.

The Liberal Party of Quebec and Quebec Solidaire would have preferred a longer consultation, each proposing some sixty groups. But the Caquist government does not want the debate to extend over many weeks, as was the case during the study of the Parti Québécois Charter of Values ​​in 2013.

In the Sun, Minister Jolin-Barrette is determined to adopt the bill by June 14, the last day of the parliamentary session. Would he be willing to extend the session by a few weeks to get his way? “I’m considering everything. But I think that within weeks of regular work, we have a lot of time to adopt it. ”

Will his government go so far as to impose a gag order? “It will depend on the attitude of oppositions,” he replies. Certainly, Mr. Jolin-Barrette does not have the taste to stretch the debate until September. “I think that Quebec society should, by June, turn the page on this issue. We’ve been debating it for a long time. ”

Before coming forward on the changes he could make to the bill, Mr. Jolin-Barrette wants to hear the groups and the opposition parties. He warns, however, that his government will not back down on its main principles, such as including teachers in the lot of people who will not be able to wear religious symbols.

No tape measure

Mr. Jolin-Barrette also does not intend to expand the acquired right provided in the bill or to allow the wearing of a religious sign discreetly or under clothing. “The size [of the religious sign], the tape measure, we are not in there.”

After hearing virulent remarks against his bill in recent weeks and having seen protesters denounce him, Minister Jolin-Barrette continues to describe him as “moderate”, “applicable” and “unifying”. He was surprised by some “extreme remarks” that his government denounced. “There are words that have been said that have no place in the public debate.”

Despite this headwind, Mr. Jolin-Barrette sees the next weeks in a positive way. “I’m not tired. I think this is an important issue for Quebec society. “The minister is particularly proud that the bill marks secularism for the first time as” a fundamental value of Québec society “.

Simon Jolin-Barrette will be very busy over the next few weeks, because he also wants to get his immigration reform adopted by June 14.

The Minister of Immigration is convinced that Bill 9, which aims to better tie immigration to jobs available in Quebec, will help to alleviate the labor shortage experienced by many companies.

The adoption of this bill will “disburse” the $ 146 million budgeted for francization and personalized support for newcomers. But for the Caquist vision of immigration to really materialize, Mr. Jolin-Barrette must also succeed in obtaining new powers from the federal government.

“We want to select almost all immigration,” said the minister in an interview with the Sun. Quebec chooses its economic immigrants, but the CAQ government also wants to take care of family reunification and get some flexibility in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). “In the short term, what is most urgent is the TFWP,” says Jolin-Barrette.

The minister wants three things: there is no longer a limit of 10% of low-paid foreign workers in the same company, the duration of the work permit goes from one year to two years and the federal government is abandoning the labor market impact assessment that companies must produce to reduce paperwork and delays. Only the Quebec impact study would remain in effect.

The minister’s goal is to welcome more temporary workers to Quebec and offer them Francization and integration services. “Ultimately, the goal is to keep them in Quebec.”

For the time being, however, Mr. Jolin-Barrette has not yet obtained any concessions from Ottawa. He hopes to make gains before the October federal election. Patricia Cloutier

Alan Carter
Alan Carter
Alan Carter has been a reporter on the news desk since 2015. Before that she wrote about young adolescents and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Koz Post, Alan Carter worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella.