SURREY (NEWS 1130) – A recently-graduated teacher has moved to Surrey because of the ban on religious symbols in Quebec.
Amrit Kaur, who is Sikh, lived in Quebec from the age of five. It’s where she grew up, and when she graduated from the University of Ottawa, she hoped to work in Montreal.
“It was my home, so obviously I wanted to work there,” she says. “All my family, all my friends live there. It was the first choice for me.”
But Quebec’s religious symbols ban meant as a teacher, she wouldn’t have been able to wear a turban to work, and Kaur says she was not willing to give up her religious freedom.
“I think people like myself, when we saw that the bill was passed, we know that we’re not going to give up our faith or our turbans for jobs,” she says. “That’s when I think I seriously started seeking employment outside the province, which I didn’t want to do.”
Bill 21 prohibits some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work. It invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution, which prevents citizens from challenging the law for violating fundamental rights and liberties protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Kaur says the bill is a violation of her human rights and that her right to practice her religion was ignored.
“If that’s being ignored and that’s in the Quebec human rights charter, then there really is no hope for someone like me to just live our lives how we should be living them.”
Now, she has moved to B.C. because she says here, she won’t be persecuted for her religion.
“It was a very tough decision. But my choice coming to B.C. was – here, the society is so multicultural, there are people who look like myself who integrated so well into society, and they’re not persecuted because of their faith. They’re valued because of the skills that they bring to the workforce. And that was very alluring to me.”
Kaur says her employer, a private school in Surrey, has been supportive of her involvement in legal action against the ban. Multiple religious and civil liberties groups are also currently in the process of challenging the legislation.
With files from Taran Parmar and the Canadian Press.