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Parti Quebecois government never sought official legal opinion on values charter

QUEBEC - The former Parti Quebecois government admitted Thursday it never asked the Justice Department whether its proposed values charter would survive a legal or constitutional challenge.

The proposed legislation would have banned all public-sector employees, including teachers and daycare workers, from displaying or wearing religious symbols such as the hijab or the kippa.

The bill had not yet been adopted when the PQ called a general election in early March — a vote the sovereigntist party went on to lose April 7.

A spokesman for the PQ caucus said Thursday "eminent jurists" were consulted to make sure that Bill 60 was based on solid legal underpinnings.

Sebastien Marcil said they included constitutional expert Henri Brun, who is close to the PQ; former Supreme Court justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube; and Julie Latour, the former head of the Quebec Bar.

They were consulted before the the charter was unveiled last September.

They were asked about certain charter-related matters including equality between men and women, freedom of religion, and the possible use of the notwithstanding clause.

Pauline Marois' PQ government hinted for several months that the charter was based on solid legal ground.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard promised during the election campaign to release any legal opinions if he became premier.

Stephanie Vallee, the new Liberal justice minister, was told in a letter written by the former deputy justice minister on Wednesday that the Justice Department was never asked to provide any formal opinion on the legality or constitutionality of the charter.

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