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Victoria councillors vote to support legal challenge against Quebec secularism law

Last Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 11:18 am PDT

File Photo: Victoria City Hall. (Courtesy City of Victoria)

Councillors in Victoria vote unanimously to support a legal challenge of Quebec's Bill 21

Quebec's Bill 12 prohibits public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job

National Council of Canadian Muslims, Canadian Civil Liberties Association among those that have filed legal challenge

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Victoria City council is unanimous in its vote to support a legal challenge in Quebec.

The province passed Bill 21 in June, which bans civic employees who are in positions of authority–like teachers, judges, and police–from wearing religious garments in the workplace.

“The residents of Victoria have family members, brothers and sisters in Quebec who won’t be able to have livelihoods,” said Councillor Sharmarke Dubow, a Muslim and a former Somali refugee, who introduced the motion at Victoria city council.

“It really forces people to somehow to make an impossible choice between their faith and their job and we won’t stand for that as a council. This bill creates a group of second-class citizens.”

A handful of people came out to address council and encourage councillors to take action.

“The fact the Quebec government pushed through this legislation in order to pander and for a problem that doesn’t exist is something we should all be concerned about. This is not a template we wish to see repeated across Canada,” said Jatinder Singh.

“Since when does ensuring balance means we must all look the same, speak the same and act the same? What happened to appreciating someone for who they are and not for you you want them to be? Isn’t that what religious freedom is all about?” said Asiyah Robinson.

The motion essentially offers support in principle to the two groups who have launched the court challenges against Bill 21.

“It is contrary to Canadian values, which include freedom of religion and acceptance of diversity,” the motion reads.

A national Muslim organization and a civil liberties group began making their case in court against Quebec’s secularism law earlier this month.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Ichrak Nourel Hak — a Universite de Montreal education student who wears a hijab — are listed as plaintiffs in the case.

Victoria joins Brampton in offering support in principle to the court challenge.

Bill 21 invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution, which prevents citizens from challenging the law for violating fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the charter.