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CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence

Ottawa finally showing signs of concern over Bill 21

  • December 23, 2021

OTTAWA -- Federal politicians, two years after it was first passed by the Quebec government, are now raising concerns about Bill 21.

The province’s secularism law bans most public servants such as teachers, police officers and judges from wearing religious symbols while they are working. Though it has drawn concerns in the past, it is only now causing a political firestorm after a teacher was removed in December from teaching classes in Chelsea, Que., which is near Ottawa, because she wears a hijab.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he may be willing to challenge the law in court at some point in the future.

“I think the one thing to remember in all this is that Quebecers believe in a free and open society. Quebecers believe in freedom of expression, Quebecers believe in the equality of men and women, Quebecers believe in freedom of religion, freedom of conscience,” Trudeau told a news conference on Dec. 15.

“Right now, a whole bunch of Quebecers are asking themselves questions about how in a free society someone could lose her job because of her religion,” he said, indicating that it is too soon for Ottawa to challenge the law in court, as the law is already being challenged in Quebec courts by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Both Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh have said that they personally oppose Bill 21, but that the matter is a provincial issue. MPs from both the Conservative and Liberal parties have spoken out about Bill 21 in recent days.

Several mayors have joined the chorus of protest over Bill 21. Toronto and Brampton city councils have both passed  motions to contribute up to $100,000 to support the legal challenge.

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