PICS Society stands strong in opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21

PICS Society stands strong in opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21, as well as to the recent statements and actions of Premier Legault in upholding this legislation and its consequences. More than two years have passed since the Quebec government introduced Bill 21 restricting visible religious imagery — including head and face coverings (hijabs, turbans, crucifixes and yarmulkes)— in the public service. Despite its professed support for religious neutrality, Bill 21’s ban on religious symbols is fundamentally inconsistent with how this constitutional principle is actually understood in Canadian law.

Bill 21 is discriminatory, repugnant, anti-woman, anti-immigrant and a direct attack on the religious freedoms and the freedom of expression of many members of certain religious groups. It disproportionately impacts people who are already marginalized and prevents public institutions in Quebec to be a true reflection of the communities they are meant to serve.

Whatever one’s traditions, beliefs and practices, we have lived in this country for many years with neighbours of different faiths and traditions. People should not be forced to make the choice between their religion, their identity and their profession. The government should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on the people of Quebec, nor should they be dictating to individuals what they can and cannot wear.

Every Canadian who chooses to wear symbols such as the kippah, turban, or hijab should also have a right to freedom of expression and religion, and to make their own choices without government interference, like all people in Canada.

In a pluralistic society like Canada, Bill 21 is both morally and legally offensive and would set a dangerous precedent which will significantly erode the rights of minority religious communities living in Quebec.

We strongly urge all elected officials at all levels of Government across the country and community leaders advocating for racialized communities, to band together and send a clear message that a bill like this is unacceptable in our country. This is not just a local, Quebec issue. Bill 21 is the most blatant example of a Canadian law, at least in recent years, that tramples on the rights of religious and, in some cases, racial minorities in the name of preserving the “secular” quality of the State. It’s certainly unacceptable to a vast majority of Canadian population, and we want our voices to be heard.