Activists continue to fight against French anti-religious law
Opponents of a bill that restricts religious freedoms are winning a small victory as they seek to overturn the widely condemned law.
A Canadian court struck down elements of a controversial law that restricted the religious rights of public sector employees wearing religious clothing in French Quebec.
A Canadian scholar of Sikh origin called the decision “A small victory in the fight to eliminate one of the most discriminatory and xenophobic laws in Canada.
The Superior Court of Quebec ruled that the law on secularism in the region violated the fundamental rights of minorities, but it still maintained the main tenants, to the dismay of opponents.
The ruling overturned a contentious part of the law – according to which government employees are prohibited from wearing religious symbols – which she says cannot be applied to English schools.
But the detractors of the Quebec law on secularism were surprised by the judge’s decision to recognize the discrimination and to affirm it.
“Welcome to Canada, a country where a judge ruled that the # Quebec the government has the right to restrict religious symbols worn by public sector employees, including teachers, police and lawyers ”, noted a militant.
Bill 21, which is the official name of the law on secularism in the predominantly French-speaking region of Quebec, has been widely criticized since its adoption in 2019.
It is considered discriminatory against religious minorities who wear conspicuous religious symbols, especially Muslim women and Sikhs.
Quebec is a predominantly Catholic region of Canada and has adopted a rigid form of secularism – an import from France.
The 240-page decision comes as the Quebec government was on the defensive in explaining why the bill was needed.
The government believes that without the bill, the French version of secularism in the region, known to be rigid and restrictive, would be threatened by the increasingly multicultural face of Quebec.
Supporters of the bill were also disappointed with the court ruling that English schools were exempt from applying religious restrictions on their staff. The verdict effectively creates parallel laws along linguistic lines in the region.
“The fact that the law is unconstitutional as applied to minority language schools … shows how irrational the law is and should be repealed,” noted a law professor.
Although the court did not change the rest of the bill much, opponents say the ruling asserted that the law is discriminatory.
“As a Muslim woman of color living in # Quebec, today’s announcement on # Bill21 and the #GeorgeFloydverdict are tiny glimmers of hope and reminders of the work that remains to be done, ”said one campaigning against the bill.
Many Canadian politicians have also spoken out against the law, which does not apply to the rest of the country.
The country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, also spoke out against the bill as an imposition of the rights of religious minorities.
Following the ruling, local politician Patrick Brown urged activists to continue their fight against the bill.
“Today’s decision by the Superior Court of Quebec was a step forward in overturning certain aspects of # Bill21 But we must go further. Bill 21 should be deemed unconstitutional in its entirety, ”he said.
“In Canada, it doesn’t matter which God you worship. Everyone should have the same opportunities, regardless of their faith. No one should have to hide their identity,” Brown added.
A 2018 study found that the Quebec City area has some of the most negative attitudes towards Muslims in Canada.
Although there are anti-Muslim views in the rest of the country, the French-speaking Quebec region stood out with over 57 percent of respondents having negative views of Muslims.
According to a 2017 poll, more than 32% of Quebecers think Muslims should be banned from entering the country, compared to 23% of the general population.
The regions’ increasingly anti-Muslim hostility culminated in the mass shooting in the Quebec mosque in 2017, which left 6 worshipers dead and five injured. The shooter’s motives were motivated by Islamophobia.
Source: TRT World