Almost six months ago, on June 16, Quebec’s government passed a law called Bill 21, which formally bans public employees; such as teachers, health professionals, and judges; from wearing religious symbols in public, including but not limited to: hijabs, turbans, kippas, and crucifixes. This bill is in addition to legislation requiring people to uncover their faces when accessing public services.
The move of the Quebec government against religious freedom disproportionately attacks racialized and immigrant communities, as this ban hinders access to employment as well as public education. In post-secondary institutions, students, faculty, and staff who are visibly religious are placed in precarious situations as they are at a higher risk of facing violence, have to pursue their academic aspirations elsewhere, and/or no longer enjoy professional mobility, a granted right for the rest of the population in the province. This is a dangerous precedent that condones hate and axes freedom of expression and inclusivity.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and Ichrak Nourel Hak, took the government to court on the grounds that this new law is unconstitutional. Yesterday, the Quebec’s Court of Appeal refused to suspend the ban on religious symbols until constitutional challenges are heard in Quebec Superior Court. They did however acknowledge that the ban’s implementation would cause irreparable harm to those affected.
The CCLA, the NCCM and Ichrak Nourel Hak are continuing the legal fight to overturn Bill 21 to protect the rights of those affected by the ban like the Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish communities. The Canadian Federation of Students supports their ongoing efforts to challenge the xenophobic, islamophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, and sexist attacks of the Quebec government.
This ban is only one example of the institutionalized oppression that visible religious minorities face; and serves as a reminder of the various ways it continues to be perpetuated in this country. Governments are elected by the people, and it is imperative to critically think about the very real consequences of laws such as this one. It is our responsibility to take action to prevent governments from targeting and harming communities, as well as to hold them accountable to their responsibility to represent all the constituents in the province of Quebec. The Federation is committed to anti-racist organizing on and off our campuses, and encourages organizations to increase support for the aforementioned constitutional challenge until everyone can exist safely.
For more information about the legal challenge and ways to support the CCLA, the NCCM, and Ichrak Nourel Hak, follow the link below:
Canadian Federation of Students