Montreal police prohibited from wearing St. Michael the Archangel insignia

St. Michael badge Credit: David Ramos - ACI Press

The police department in Montreal prohibited its officers from wearing religious symbols at work, especially images of St. Michael the Archangel, state media CBC/Radio-Canada has reported.

The mandate from the City of Montreal Police Service (SPVM) was based on a 2019 law and was a direct response to the uniform worn by officers at protests related to the COP15 international forum held in Montreal Sept. 7.

On that day, many officers were seen on social media wearing badges that read “St. Michael protect us,” in homage to the patron saint of Canadian police.

“After analysis, it was agreed that the crest of St. Michael worn by SPVM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal) police officers on their uniform is a religious sign within the meaning of the law,” the memo sent out to officers said. 

“Consequently, we ask you now to kindly remove from your uniforms any crest symbolizing or referring to the Archangel St. Michael, in order to comply with the law,” the memo added.

The law on state secularism, known as Law 21, is a regulation that dates from 2019 and that establishes that Quebec Province, where Montreal is located, “is a secular state.”

Despite the challenges filed in court against this law, the Quebec Superior Court upheld it in 2021.

Since the bill was introduced, it has been criticized by political and religious leaders, who called it an act of discrimination and an affront to religious freedom.

In 2019, the Montreal City Council removed a crucifix that had been on the premises for 80 years.

In response, the Archdiocese of Montreal stated that the crucifix represents the country’s Christian roots and does not need to be eliminated in a pluralistic society.

“As a sign revered by Christians, the crucifix remains a living symbol. It symbolizes openness and respect toward all peoples, including toward other faith communities and religious traditions, which rightfully adhere to their own signs and symbols,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said.

That same year, a crucifix was removed from the Blue Room of the Quebec National Assembly.

“Although nearly all of the province’s 6.8 million French speakers have Catholic roots, fewer than 10% attend Mass regularly, compared with 90% several decades ago,” the AP reported in July in the context of Pope Francis’ visit to the province.

“Once-pervasive church influence over politics and culture has faded almost totally, and in what is known as the Quiet Revolution, it lost its central role in areas such as education and health care. That’s significant considering the Church founded Quebec’s school system and for decades controlled education, teacher training, welfare, and health care,” the AP noted.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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