Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on Friday stated that she opposes Bill 21, the province of Quebec’s proposed legislation to ban police officers and many other public employees from wearing religious symbols, but would obey it should it pass.
“I am not going for disobedience, whatsoever,” she told reporters at city hall.
The bill was introduced in late March and prohibits teachers, nurses, bus drivers, lawyers and other civil servants who interact with the public from wearing religious symbols while at work. This includes Muslim hijabs (veils), Sikh turbans, Christian jewelry and Jewish yarmulkes.
Earlier in April, Quebec Premier Francois Legault declared the bill reinforces gender equality in the province. “I think at this point in Quebec in 2019, people who are in an authority position, which includes teachers [must not wear religious symbols], I think it’s reasonable. It’s fair. We have to think about what’s best for our children.”
Obviously, the bill is all about the children, but not the way the PM meant it. Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in Quebec, representing some 3% of Quebec’s 8.3 million residents. In this context, Québécois society has deep connections to France and has viewed with alarm the Islamization of the home country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized Bill 21, saying: “It’s unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion.”
In 2017, after the government of Quebec passed Bill 62, the “religious neutrality law,” banning the wearing of traditional face coverings (niqab, burqa, hijab) while receiving public services (which included riding the bus), the Quebec Superior Court suspended the bill, stating that it discriminates against Muslim women. The court ruled it to be “a violation” of the Canadian and Quebec Charters, which “provide for freedom of conscience and religion.”