NCCM says CAQ government’s so-called secularism bill creates second-class citizens

-For Immediate Release-

Fears grow in Muslim community as CAQ tables discriminatory ‘Bill 21’ today

(Montreal – March 28, 2019) The Quebec office of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties and advocacy organization, says the Coalition Avenir de Quebec (CAQ) government’s so-called secularism bill – Bill 21 – tabled today will render Quebec Muslims and other minority communities second-class citizens.

“The CAQ government has introduced this discriminatory legislation without engaging in any consultation whatsoever with impacted communities.  If this bill becomes law, Quebec Muslims will be facing a very different set of circumstances and socio-economic prospects than those around them.  Quebec is a democratic, progressive and inclusive society; yet this bill is regressive and is squarely against these core values,” says NCCM Quebec spokesperson Sarah Abou-Bakr.

The bill would ban the wearing of the hijab, kippah, and turban for public servants, including teachers, school administrators, Crown lawyers, police officers, correctional officers and others.

Under the guise of secularism, this legislation is effectively a prohibition on wearing the hijab in the Quebec public service given the overwhelming number of people impacted will be Muslim women. Secularism is about the state protecting religious freedom for all Quebecers, and not coercing individual conformity to what the majority wants,” says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.

“Quebec is understandably trying to find a way to deal with an increasingly diverse society while still protecting its distinct Francophone culture. But removing the fundamental rights and freedoms of some Quebecers will only entrench division,” adds Abou-Bakr. “The CAQ government cannot claim to protect Quebec’s right to be different while at the same time discriminating against Quebecers who themselves are different. We will be speaking to Quebecers about how this bill fails to protect Quebec’s distinct society and jeopardizes its future as a strong and prosperous place.”

Today’s bill invoked the rarely-used ‘notwithstanding clause’ in an attempt to override future legal challenges to the legislation. But according to the NCCM, the fight to safeguard the rights of minority communities in Quebec has only just begun.

“The CAQ government’s use of the notwithstanding clause is a tacit admission that this bill would not pass constitutional muster.  The NCCM’s legal team is undertaking a careful review of the bill to determine what options exist to challenge this discriminatory legislation,” says Gardee.

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization that is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.