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Francois Lego defends the decision to cancel the debate on immigration laws and religious symbols

Québec Prime Minister Francois Lego says that there is a risk in the province to upset “social cohesion” if the debate about religious symbols lasts longer.

Legault will call for closure to pass his government’s controversial bills on secularism and immigration, ending the debate in the Provincial National Assembly on two controversial legislation.

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced that he had a mandate to solve both problems, which were key moments in the election platform of the coalition Abner Quebec last fall.

"There is a clear opinion from Quebex, which we received on October 1, eight months ago," said Lego, whose party, elected with 38 percent of the vote, occupies a majority of seats in the legislature.

According to Lego, there has been a debate over religious accommodation in Quebec for over a decade, and the time has come to “turn the page.”

"I think it is good for what we call ensemble vivre," he said.

The provincial winter legislative session was supposed to end on Friday, but Legault pushed back the summer break and extended the session until the end of the week to vote on bills.

Lego accused the opposition of deliberately delaying the debate, instead of putting forward "constructive" ideas about how to improve the accounts.

“When I introduced the bill a couple of months ago, it was quite clear to me that I intended to adopt the bill before the end of the session, and now the only thing we see is an obstacle,” he said.

“This is not correct,” says the opposition.

The CAQ government’s secularism bill, draft law 21, will not allow government officials holding senior positions, including teachers, to wear religious symbols.

Minority groups have expressed concern that this will promote discrimination and limit employment opportunities for thousands of Quebec people, especially Muslim women wearing the hijab.

The bill refers to an inappropriate reservation in an attempt to block a challenge to the law on the grounds that it violates the Quebec and Canadian charters of rights.

Pierre Arkand, the interim leader of the Liberal official opposition, said it was “wrong” to push the law without full debate. He predicted that his faults would be exposed in the coming months.

Arkand noted that the mayor of Montreal Valerie Plante, as well as some trade unions and school councils, expressed concern about the law and its application. He is also expected to face legal problems.

“The debate is not over,” said Arkand. "There are many people who are not satisfied."

The bill was submitted to the Quebec parliamentary commission only 10 days ago, on 4 June.

Manon Masset (left) and Gabriel Nado-Dubois, Co-Chairs of Québec Solidaire, at the final press conference on Friday, June 14. (Sylvain Roy Roussel / Radio Canada)

Gabriel Nadu-Dubois, co-chair of Québec Solidaire, the second opposition party, said that the legislators did not have enough time to fully study the implications of the proposed legislation.

“No serious or trustworthy person who knows how this assembly works can think that in a few days this bill will be adopted using conventional procedures,” he said.

Parti Québécois, which advocates a strong law on secularism, also advocated further discussion of the bill in the hope of making it more convincing.

Interim leader Pascal Berube said that he still wants the ban on religious symbols to extend not only to teachers, but also to day care workers.

The proposed immigration law, Bill 9, sets the framework for a Québec property test that immigrants will have to pass in order to become a permanent resident.

If the bill becomes law, the government will throw out 18,000 applications for the status of a qualified immigrant worker in Quebec, forcing them to re-apply through a new merit-based system.

The immigration minister, Simon Jolene-Barrett, said Friday that the law is necessary for better integration of newcomers and to solve the shortage of labor in the province.

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