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'Bill 21 discriminates and divides': Surrey councillor brings motion denouncing Quebec law

Last Updated Nov 17, 2019 at 4:28 pm PDT

Badges are seen as part of a campaign in opposition to Quebec's secularism Bill 21 during a news conference in Montreal on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Bill 21 prohibits public servants deemed to be in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols

Victoria. Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto have passed similar motions opposing the bill

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Surrey is poised to join cities around the country in denouncing Quebec’s Bill 21 as discriminatory and lending its support to a court challenge of the so-called secularism law.

Bill 21 came into effect in June. It prohibits public servants deemed to be in positions of authority — including teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols, such as turbans, kippas and hijabs.

Coun. Brenda Locke is bringing the motion to city council Monday.

“Anyone who works in a government job would not be able to wear religious symbols. That is just completely inappropriate,” she says.

For Locke, opposing in line with the city’s commitment to inclusivity.

“The motion is really an acknowledgment of the diversity in Surrey and the need to have equity for all citizens,” Locke explains. “It is about people who wear turbans, hijab, yarmulke. Even people like me who wear a cross. It matters to all of us.”

Amrit Kaur, a teacher who is Sikh and moved from Quebec to B.C. because of the ban, was at council when Locke introduce the notice of motion.

“I spoke with her afterward, she was very moved by it,” Locke says.

RELATED: Sikh teacher from Montreal moves to B.C. for religious freedom at work

The motion lends support in principle to a legal challenge of the bill that argues the legislation violates the human right to freedom of religion and religious expression.

The bill invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution, which prevents citizens from challenging the law for violating fundamental rights and liberties protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nevertheless, it is being challenged by the English Montreal School Board, as well as the National Council of Canadian Muslims and Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Victoria. Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto are some of the other cities that have passed motions opposing the law and lending their support to legal challenges.