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Denouncing PQ’s secular charter, Montreal protesters press for ‘open Quebec’

Demonstrators march against Quebec's proposed secular charter in downtown Montreal on Sept. 29, 2013.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/The Globe and Mail

Hundreds marched through the streets of Montreal on Sunday to call for an "open Quebec" and, once again, denounce the Parti Québécois government's proposed secular charter.

The crowd may have been smaller than at an anti-charter rally that jammed the streets two weeks earlier, but it appeared to be more diverse.

The rally was organized by a group of young, multicultural Montrealers and brought together Muslims, Sikhs and Jews to protest against the ban on religious headwear in public institutions.

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The earlier protest didn't have the support of a major Jewish group because it took issue with the organizers and the march was held on a religious holiday.

This time, the rally drew several politicians and other prominent voices against the proposed charter, including some well-known sovereigntists.

Charles Taylor, a philosopher who oversaw Quebec's commission on religious accommodation in 2007, addressed the crowd before the march began.

He warned the charter would be an affront on individual rights.

"Our society is organized around rights for everybody, and we can't let that go for one minute without regretting it for the rest of our lives," he said.

Former Bloc Québécois MP Jean Dorion, who has come out against the charter, was also on hand.

Quebec's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs encouraged the Jewish community to take part in the rally.

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The previous protest had been held on Yom Kippur.

In a statement, the group said that it's "reassured to see that civil society and an increasing number of Quebeckers firmly oppose the unreasonable measures set forth by the government."

Avrom Shtern, a 51-year-old who wears a kippa, called the proposal "very restrictive, very provincial, and very narrow-minded."

Abia Khan, 16, attended the protest with two friends. All three wear headscarves.

"I'm not bothering anyone else, so I don't see why it should be removed," said Khan, who emigrated from Pakistan as a child.

"I want to be able to work here and continue to wear my hijab, and if I can't, then why would I stay here?"

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