A Canadian Catholic priest is urging Quebec to move towards a model of "open secularism" that respects both religious and non-religious contributions to society without imposing the beliefs of any one group.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News reports that Fr Daniel Moreau made his remarks at the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on accommodation for migrants, which moved its hearings to Montreal's South Shore on earlier this week.
Speaking in French, Moreau addressed the commission on secularism and Quebec's religious heritage. Religious accommodation, he declared, is first and foremost a question of identity. "When we accept our identity, we aren't scared of others. We can reach out to others to try to understand, analyze, watch and learn from our differences with others."
"There are many religious communities that are part of the social fabric. We can't exclude that, just like that, from the public sphere," he said, while affirming the secular basis of public education.
In Canada, as in the UK and elsewhere, there is a fierce debate about what kind of public policies encourage social cohesion.
Fr Moreau said that a secular society was not one in which religion was excluded, but a plural environment in which all were respected an no one group claimed privilege over others.