Opposition parties in Quebec are pressuring the Liberal government to spell out its position on the thorny issue of Muslim women wearing hijabs in the public sector.
The wearing of hijab in public institutions is a contentious issue in Quebec. (CP)The opposition demanded Wednesday that the government take a stand on whether women in public service should be allowed to wear the hijab, or other religious headwear.
The demand came after Quebec's Federation of Women declared its position on hijabs in the province's public service, which contradicts the one recently taken by a government advisory council.
At a special general assembly last weekend, the influential federation announced it could neither condone nor condemn the wearing of hijabs by public servants. "No obligation, no ban," said federation president Michèle Asselin.
That position is in stark contrast to the view taken by Quebec's advisory council on the status of women.
The council recommended women in public service jobs who interact with the public should be prohibited from wearing any "obvious religious signs."
Opposition parties want the Liberals to distance themselves from the federation's position and reaffirm the government's view on hijabs.
But Quebec's Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre refused Wednesday to do so, explaining "there is no consensus on this issue."
Muslim women's group wants right to choose
The Canadian Muslim Women's Committee is disappointed in Quebec's opposition parties for judging what is a personal choice, said member Nermine Barbouche, who wears a hijab.
"I work, I go to school, I'm doing everything else that you can do, so where's the problem? Why am I oppressed? Where is it, the oppression?" she said.
Quebec should tread carefully before taking any recommendations from the advisory council, Barbouche added.
"Especially here in Quebec, people often talk about immigrants and women [who] are not very well integrated into the society. So if you're discriminating against them even more, you're not helping the case at all."