Piacente: Bill 21 is hideousApril 23, 2019
There is still time to lobby against Quebec's Bill 21.
Premier François Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, recently tabled Bill 21.
This bill, ostensibly another attempt to officially make Quebec society secular, is a slap in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols by public sector workers during working hours if in a position of authority, means that teachers, police officers, commissioners of oaths and a slew of other professionals of minority communities will be negatively impacted.
Quebecers who wear the hijab, the turban, the kippah, and any religious jewellery would have to remove them before starting work. Since culture is what defines us 24-7, not only during working hours, it’s cruel, offensive and discriminatory for this government to force anyone to make a choice between their job and their culture.
Almost 200 years ago, John Stuart Mill referred to that notion as the majority imposing its will on disadvantaged minorities through the democratic process. Bill 21 reeks of tyranny by the majority.
So what purpose does this bill serve? If the government is trying to erase all religious symbols from Quebec society, they are going to fail. Just think of all the street names, the hospitals, the schools, all starting with Saint this and Sainte that. It is part of Quebec history, culture and identity and cannot be erased.
Does the government think that the majority of Quebecers don’t want any religious shackles after being under the thumb of the Catholic Church for decades? I know how the Church coloured every aspect of our daily life by imposing a multitude of rules on us. We had to go to church on Sundays, we had to eat fish on Fridays, we couldn’t use any form of birth control save abstinence or there were dire consequences having to do with the fires of hell. I find it ironic that this government is now trying to dictate to citizens instead of the church.
Or is it really because there is a feeling by some that Quebec society is being “taken over” by people who share a different culture and unless they are reigned in, Quebec society will somehow be diminished? Sitting in a café outside Montreal last week, I was shocked to hear just that from the group at the next table. Was this group reflective of the “vast” majority that the premier says wants this bill? If it’s from the CROP poll of slightly more than 1,000 participants, that’s a pretty slim sampling.
So far, many municipal mayors, directors of school boards, and many others, even Charles Taylor who co-authored the report on reasonable accommodations, have voiced their concerns that this bill is discriminatory.
Premier Legault’s pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause which takes away the ability to challenge the proposed legislation should be another red flag.
Besides, how is this law going to be enforced? Will there be an Office Quebecoise de la Laïcité with inspectors asking these employees to do up the top button of their shirt to hide a Star of David or a crucifix? Will directors of schools be fined, or worse, for not enforcing the Bill on their teachers?
A law that is not easily enforced is a bad law and should not be adopted, the premier should know that. He should take a cue from the Office de la Langue Française who realized quickly that it was impossible to stop store clerks from greeting customers with “Bonjour-Hi”. So the government should pick its battles and focus on more important things.
If you, like me, find that this bill doesn’t reflect your Quebec; a society of inclusion and diversity, now’s the time to speak up. The Official Opposition had requested and was granted, that various groups be heard before Bill 21 is passed and adopted. There’s still time to write to your MNA today.
— Diane Piacente, a former Hudson town councillor/interim mayor, has worked as a real estate agent, actress/model and photographer.