Statement on Bill 21

Recently, the Government of Quebec adopted a deeply troubling law under the guise of secularism that would prohibit certain Quebecers of faith from participating in public life and in the public sector. The academic community has long been a bastion of diversity and free thought. Pluralism enriches our communities and makes Quebec a more prosperous and welcoming place to live. As the associations and labour unions representing the whole of the McGill Community, we stand together against this divisive law which attacks civil liberties.

Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill

Association of McGill University Support Employees

Association of McGill University Research Employees

McGill Association of University Teachers

McGill’s Association of Continuing Education Students

McGill Course Lecturers & Instructors Union

McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association

McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association

Post Graduate Students’ Society

Service Employees’ Union

Students’ Society of McGill University

 

While state secularism is an important value in Quebec, one that is broadly supported by the public and faith communities alike, we believe that the current legislation misses the mark and creates two classes of citizen. Requiring government employees and citizens to remove personal symbols of their faith in order to participate in society is divisive and punitive and dangerous.  Asking a teacher to remove his kippah or a crown prosecutor to remove her hijab is akin to firing these individuals because of their religion.  Nowhere in the modern history of this province is there an example of a government employee attempting to proselytize by way of her or his clothing.  This law is an answer to a problem that does not exist.  It serves merely to send a message to certain of our compatriots that their personal religious beliefs are not wanted here in Quebec.

Even more alarming is that, by preemptively adding the notwithstanding clause to the law, the government fully recognises that this law likely violates freedom of religion – as enshrined in our Charters of Human Rights.  What’s more, the second part of this law – requiring the removal of face coverings to receive government services – creates a scandal where there is none.  For years, various government bodies have maintained the practice of asking veiled women to remove their face coverings for identification.  Never has there been a case of a person refusing to remove a face covering for the purpose of identification.  Why then does the government feel the need to adopt laws to marginalize certain religious Quebecers – laws that disproportionately affect Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and women?

We call on the government of Quebec to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedom.  A free society cannot be called free when it, without reason, demands certain of its citizens to choose between their faith and participation in public life.  This law has no place in a multicultural, secular, modern Quebec and must be repealed.

The MUNACA Executive