LILLEY: Calling out bigotry starts with denouncing Quebec’s Bill 21

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We can’t call out the kind of hatred that leads to a targeted terrorist attack like we allegedly saw in London this week if we aren’t willing to call out the things that help lead to such acts.

For federal leaders, that includes denouncing in no uncertain terms, Quebec’s Bill 21.

It may seem odd to say that we need to call out a law in Quebec for an alleged terrorist attack against a Muslim family in Ontario, but they are connected.

Bill 21 is the so-called secularism bill in Quebec. It says that people who wear religious symbols — be it a hijab, a yamulke or a turban — are banned from jobs in the public service.

It spells out rules for members of the public to receive services as well.

Bill 21 is a bigoted piece of legislation. It is the kind of legislation that should be denounced by all but hasn’t been because the law is highly popular in Quebec.

Yet, do we really want to have governments of any stripe deciding what we can wear — religiously or otherwise — in a free and democratic society? If the government can dictate what you can wear as a religious person, then they can dictate what you believe.


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Many people are upset at the idea of the government trying to mandate vaccines but if the government can mandate what you can and cannot wear, which religious symbols are acceptable and which are not, then of course they could mandate that you must take a vaccine or just about anything else.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly guarantees, “freedom of conscience and religion,” as well as “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” That would cover the wearing of religious garb or symbols.

It should cover a Christian who wants to wear a cross or crucifix as much as it covers a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

We either have the freedom and we cherish it or we don’t.

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Of course, Quebec regularly writes in the notwithstanding clause into their legislation, and they have in this case, as well. Bill 21 violates Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well, or would if they didn’t change it to say you have religious freedom except in certain circumstances.


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In his comments on the London attack on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took time to call out those he felt were behind the ideas that lead to such attacks but did not name them. He did the same later that day during a news conference but there he was asked several times about Bill 21.

“Do you agree with what experts, advocates and activists in the community say, that Bill 21 fosters hatred and fosters discrimination?” Trudeau was asked.

“No,” was all Trudeau said.

Asked to expand, he spoke of the rights of provinces to put forward bills “that align with their priorities” and that people have the right to challenge such bills. Hardly, a denunciation of a clearly bigoted law.

At times, Trudeau has been critical of the bill but not critical enough.


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None of the federal leaders have been critical enough of this bill. They are too concerned about votes in Quebec which is why they are all willing to look the other way as Quebec brings in Bill 96 which tramples language rights.

Trudeau only deserves slightly harsher criticism because he is the prime minister but all the leaders deserve to be called out.

  1. A man brings flowers and pays his respects at the scene where a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., June 7, 2021.

    Trudeau calls London assault that killed four Muslim family members a ‘terrorist attack’

  2. Nafisa Azima holds her son, Seena Safdari, after placing flowers Monday night at the scene of a crash in northwest London that killed four members of a family 24 hours earlier. (Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press)

    Victims’ loved ones speak out as London vigil planned Tuesday night

  3. Forensic officers take evidence photos at the scene of the multiple fatality on Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road in London, Ont. Four people were stuck by a car and died Sunday night. Photograph taken on Monday June 7, 2021.

    London police launch huge probe into crash that killed four pedestrians

We can’t say we need to stamp out bigotry in this country while the second-most populous province enables legislation that is the embodiment of the bigotry our leaders are denouncing.

Be it Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racial hatred or any other form of bigotry, it needs to be called out, challenged and denounced. For federal leaders, that means challenging Bill 21.


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