Topless ‘Femen’ protesters disrupt Quebec legislature in protest against crucifix

QUEBEC CITY, October 2, 2013 ( - Three members of the radical feminist topless protest group Femen disrupted proceedings in the Quebec legislature on Tuesday.

After shouting from the gallery and removing their shirts, the trio was quickly hustled away by security.

The group said they were protesting the presence of the crucifix on the wall of the National Assembly in light of the Quebec government's proposed secular “charter of values,” which seeks to ban “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols in public institutions. 

One of the "Femen Quebec" members, Julie-Anne Beaulac, a 19-year-old college student, wrote the sacrilegious Quebecois expression “Crucifix décâlisse” (Crucifix, get the hell out of here) across her chest and bared her breasts as Question Period began in the legislature. 

The topless trio then shouted the slogan as they were escorted out of the chamber. 

“We find it completely aberrant that bills such as the charter, which are supposed to be promoting secularism in Quebec, are voted on beneath a crucifix,” Beaulac told the National Post.

The Quebec government, while seeking to ban religious symbols, has said that it views the crucifix in the legislature, as well as other religious symbols having historical significance such as the huge cross at the top of Montreal's Mount Royal, as part of Quebec's heritage that must be protected. The crucifix in the National Assembly was placed during the time of the Duplessis government and has been there since 1936. 

At the same time, the Quebec government's campaign in support of the Charter of Values is urging Quebecois to accept that the “religious neutrality of the state” is “equally sacred” to the “tabernacle,” “ciborium,” “Synagogue, Mosque, Church,” and the “Koran, Torah, and Bible”. 

Morgane Mary-Pouliot, another Femen Québec protester, told the Post that in her opinion the crucifix is a relic "of a time when women in Quebec were told by the Catholic Church that their chief role was to produce children." 

The Femen Quebec Facebook page denounces religion as “a weapon of mass destruction” and states that Femen members are committed to combat the "patriarchy of religious institutions." 

“(This) crucifix stems from the Great Darkness,” Femen said, applying a term commonly used by liberals to describe the conservative era of Maurice Duplessis' pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec.

While an overwhelming majority of Quebec's population still identifies itself as Catholic, the so-called Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s resulted in a wholesale abandonment of the province’s religious heritage. 

Femen, whose slogan is, “Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts”, is famous for staging numerous controversial bare-chested protests, such as attacking Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard with water, shouts, and curses in April; chanting "Pope no More" in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican; protesting against government plans in Ukraine to outlaw abortion in some circumstances; and chainsawing Orthodox crosses in the wake of the conviction of a Russian punk band. 

A recent documentary on the group, which premiered at the Venice film festival, alleges that the mastermind behind Femen is actually a Ukrainian man, Viktor Svyatski, who uses the facade of a protest organization to "get girls." 

Tuesday's incident at the Quebec legislature appears to be the first conspicuous Femen protest in Canada. According to the Journal de Quebec the three women were released, but could be charged with indecent exposure.

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The mission of the "FEMEN" movement is to create the most favourable conditions for the young women to join up into a social group with the general idea of the mutual support and social responsibility, helping to reveal the talents of each member of the movement.

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