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Petition launching next week to oppose Quebec’s secularism law Bill 21

“Bill 21 is systemic discrimination,” says Lina El Bakir, Quebec advocacy officer for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, on a new petition at the national assembly against the secularism law. Brittany Henriques reports.

By Brittany Henriques
Posted May 7, 2022, 12:59PM EDT.

Groups and advocates against Quebec’s Bill 21 are throwing their support behind a new petition at the National Assembly calling on the government to revisit sections of the secularism law.
They say Bill 21 discriminates and attacks the fundamental right of religious minorities and disproportionately impacts women.
“We’re just doing this approach because we want to remind people that the bill is still coming, that there is opposition, and that there’s someone else also that’s on their side that’s trying to make change,” said Mauro Peña, director of the Red Coalition Inc., an organization dedicated to ending systemic racism in Canada.
“We are not alone in contesting (Bill) 21 or any of its sections along with multiple groups. We’re just one of many.”
The law bans public servants including teachers and crown prosecutors from wearing religious symbols at work.
“Bill 21 has been in place since 2019 and it has come in the way of the careers and dreams of many Quebeckers who choose to wear the kippah or the turban or a hijab,” said Lina El Bakir, the Quebec advocacy officer for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “And too often we get calls and emails from Quebecers directly targeted by Bill 21. They are unable to pursue their careers. They are unable to practise their basic rights. This is what Bill 21 does.
“It’s a second class of citizenship,” said El Bakir. “It says it’s OK for women to be disproportionately discriminated against. And the trivialization of such discriminatory actions is simply unacceptable. Here in Quebec. “Bill 21 is systemic discrimination, point blank.”
Advocates hope the petition will put additional pressure on Quebec to rethink the law.
“We don’t want this bill to be used as a discriminatory tool by the government,” said Peña. “We understand that we live in a secular society. However, we want this to not work against the society that we’re all trying to collectively live in and build. What I mean by that is we need new doctors, new teachers, new government employees all the time.”
The petition is expected to go live on the National Assembly website by early next week. It will run until June 10.
Five hundred signatures are required for it to be discussed in the National Assembly.
“As a society, we make decisions and we have rules set into place to protect minorities’ rights and in those minorities’ rights, we have freedom of religion, freedom of choice,” said El Bakir. “So how is it just to ask a person to have to choose between their religious identity, their religious freedom, different religion, their freedom of expression, and their dreams and aspirations?”

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