Whitby Regional Councilors Call on Regional Council to Support Brampton Legal Fund Against Quebec Bill 21

By Liam McConnell

Posted on December 16, 2021 at 3:23 p.m.

Whitby Councilors Chris Leahy and Steve Yamada (pictured with Next Councilor Deirdre Newman, center) move to Durham Region to support legal challenges to Bill 21.

Whitby Regional Councilors Christopher Leahy and Steve Yamada have brought forward a motion for next week’s Durham Council meeting to provide up to $ 50,000 to help Brampton Legal Fund fight the ban on religious symbols in Quebec for public workers.

The government of Quebec, led by Premier François Legault, has adopted Law on the secularism of the State, otherwise known as Bill 21, in June 2019.

The law defines Quebec as a religiously neutral “secular state”. As a result, it prohibits public sector employees from wearing religious symbols, such as crosses, hijabs, turbans and kippahs while on duty.

Obviously expecting the law to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds, the Quebec government invoked section 33 of the Charter, the notwithstanding clause, which allows provincial governments to temporarily override rights guaranteed by the Charter. charter of their citizens.

The use of the notwithstanding clause was once quite rare. It was invoked six times between its creation in 1982 and 2000, but was only promulgated three times. It will only be cited in 2018, with six uses by 2021.

The use of section 33 in Bill 21, and the bill more broadly, was immediately controversial across the country, with many religious political leaders denouncing the law as discriminatory.

It has been challenged in court on several occasions, but always upheld with modifications. It was often a hot talking point in the 2021 election, but most party leaders agreed at the time that it was a Quebec issue to be addressed by Quebec.

However, the recent removal of teacher Fatemeh Anvari from her class for wearing a hijab at work has fueled the discussion.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not challenge the bill in court over his objections, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown decided to fight instead.

Brampton council ultimately passed a motion to provide $ 100,000 to advocacy groups in Quebec to fund their legal challenges. Brown said, “If we allow religious freedom to be violated in Quebec, where you can’t wear a hijab and be a teacher or wear a turban and be a police officer, we are setting a dangerous precedent.

“It’s not a fair fight when you have racialized communities fighting to defend the Charter against a provincial government with unlimited legal resources,” he continued. He has since called on other municipalities to support the initiative with their own funding.

Durham regional councilors Leahy and Yamada have heard the call. They gave notice to council of a motion that would provide up to $ 50,000 to the fund.

Their motion reads, in part: “Durham Region, as one of the fastest growing, most multicultural and diverse regional municipalities in Canada, strongly supports freedom of religion as it is consistent with our freedom of rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights ”.

“The region of Durham stands in solidarity with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (CNMC) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (ACLC) in their legal challenge against Bill 21 in Quebec,” he continues.

The full text of the motion can be found in Durham Agenda. It will be debated in the Regional Council on December 22.

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