The proposed law, introduced on Thursday, sets the province's right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government on a collision course with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promotes religious freedom, in a federal election year with a Quebec a vital battleground.
There is also a grandfather clause, exempting school administrators, teachers, peace officers, lawyers, justices of the peace and some other legal officers for as long as they remain in the same position with the same employer.
Harvey Levine, Quebec regional director of the Jewish advocacy group B'nai Brith, described it as "an assault on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Quebecers".
"Because the CAQ government has invoked the notwithstanding clause to override protections for freedom of religion enshrined in both the Canadian and Quebec Charters, the only solution is for the people of Quebec to strongly oppose this bill". But new public workers in "authority" positions could not wear religious symbols - they risk dismissal if they do not follow the ban.
The government has previous suggested that the ban will include symbols of Muslim faith such as the hijab, niqab, burka and chador. We fear that this ban will have a trickle-down effect into the private sector and young Sikhs who are born and raised in Quebec will find it even more hard to find jobs in the province.
Christian symbols are also likely to be targeted. It includes all MNAs, elected municipal politicians and school boar commissioners, as well as all physicians, dentists and midwives practicing in publicly operated facilities, and anyone working at a government-subsidized home child-care centre. Meanwhile, people who want to receive public services "must have their face uncovered where doing so is necessary to allow their identity to be verified or for security reasons". "The NCCM's legal team is undertaking a careful review of the bill to determine what options exist to challenge this discriminatory legislation", said Gardee.
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Legault's CAQ party now holds a significant majority in the National Assembly, meaning Bill 21's passage is likely a formality.
What is important is ensuring the process of making laws is secular, not that people divest themselves of religious attire and symbols, says the Montreal mayor.
"I think one of the things that a lot of Quebecers are going to be asking in the coming hours and days is about how this proposed law is actually going to work", he said.
"I never in my journey thought I couldn't", she said.
Significant public backlash could theoretically lead to Legault rethinking some or all aspects of the bill.
But the bill contains provisions to shield it from court challenge. Visible minorities already have a harder time finding jobs in Quebec than the white francophone majority, he said, and the bill reinforces the idea that a person can be judged based on his appearance.