Selin ATAY-TDO-The 45,000-strong teacher’s union in Quebec joined the ranks of organizations filing lawsuits over the province’s ban on religious symbols by many public workers.

Rémi Bourget, a partner and the lead lawyer representing the union, said that in order to pass the bill, the Quebec government suspended Canadians' constitutional rights to freedom of religion and equality without discrimination.

"We want the court to declare that the rights of our members were violated by this government; the right to freedom of religion, of course, but also the right to equality, because the vast majority -  if not the totality - of the people who will be impacted are women,'' Bourget told. In Quebec, 75 per cent of teachers are women, he said.

Several other groups, including a civil liberties organization and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, have also filed lawsuits, arguing the ban unfairly targets Muslim women who wear the hijab. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government has no right to tell people how to dress and did not rule out the federal government intervening in the case.

The ban, from which existing employees are exempt, affects new hires of police officers, teachers and lawyers. Other public employees such as doctors and bus drivers are exempt from the ban as long as the face is not covered.It effectively bans hijabs, Christian crosses, turbans and kippahs while the workers are on the job.

The lawsuits come at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is growing in Quebec. In Montreal so far this year, Muslims make up 58 per cent of the people targeted in hate crimes, according to police. More incidents go unreported.

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