Will Quebec's Bill 21 factor into the federal election?September 07, 2019
While not one of Canada's political parties intends to make Quebec's controversial Bill 21 a key issue during the upcoming federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, if re-elected, would ensure Quebeckers' Charter rights aren't trampled by the provincial law that prohibits teachers, police officers, judges and other provincial employees from wearing religious symbols at work, Liberal MP Marc Miller told The House.
"You can expect the prime minister to stand up and represent interests that are of potentially federal jurisdiction, which includes the place of religion under the Constitution and the role of gender equality in the application of those Charter rights, which is not immunized by the use of the notwithstanding clause," Miller said.
Quebec's National Assembly used the notwithstanding clause to pass the bill into law in June. The legislation also includes rules that would require citizens receiving a public service to uncover their faces for identification or security purposes.
Conservative MP Gerard Deltell said his party would never enact similar legislation at the federal level. But he defended the provincial government's right to do so in Quebec.
"The government of Quebec has (the) full right to do whatever they want in their own jurisdiction based on the rule of the law," he said.
Guy Caron, an NDP MP, said his leader Jagmeet Singh, a practising Sikh who wears a turban, is "uniquely placed to understand the issues of discrimination."
"We disagree with the essence of Bill 21 but once again, because of the notwithstanding clause, we respect the right of Quebeckers and the National Assembly in this matter," Caron told The House.
Amrit Kaur, a Quebec Sikh woman who wears a turban, relocated to British Columbia in order to work as a teacher. She said the unwillingness of federal political leaders to tackle Bill 21 head-on is disheartening.
"I think they just don't want to provoke Quebec," she told The House from her classroom in Surrey, B.C.
"And it's sad that this fear of losing Quebec is making them compromise their core values."