City of Kelowna councillors passed a symbolic motion on Oct. 21 in opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21.
Bill 21, also known as the secularism law, bans Quebec’s teachers, police officers, judges and other public officials from wearing items like hijabs, turbans, kippas and crucifixes while at work. The law also affirms pre-existing legislation that requires citizens to uncover their faces when accessing public services, such as municipal transit and the legal system.
Councillors voted unanimously in support of the motion presented by Coun. Mohini Singh, following the suit of several Canadian cities that have already opposed the bill.
“When this first became law, I was aghast; I was horrified,” said Singh.
“I didn’t think me, as a little city councillor, could do anything about this. Brampton passed a motion similar to ours and then when Calgary did, I took notice.”
Singh cited a statement Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi made upon his city’s motion against the bill: “It is late, we are making this action late. But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”
“This is a nasty, mean spirited, demeaning, racist law,” said Singh.
“This doesn’t just impact the people of Quebec, this has nationwide implications.
“This creates two classes of Canadians and it absolutely violates the very tenets on which Canadian society was built.”
Singh’s fellow councillors shared similar sentiments regarding the bill.
Despite some community pushback due to this bill being out of council’s jurisdiction, Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said “all leaders need to speak to injustice.”
“Division methodically happens over time with the silence of good people and I truly believe no one has the right to take away someone’s right to practice their religion,” he said.
“Diversity and inclusion make us stronger.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge said he was “surprised” this issue is still coming up.
“It’s very important for all elected officials, no matter what level they’re at, to say that Bill 21 is wrong,” he said.
While Coun. Luke Stack said he normally doesn’t like weighing in on issues outside of the city’s jurisdiction but this caught his attention.
“We have worked so tirelessly and diligently towards becoming an inclusive society where all can feel the freedom to believe what they want and wear what they want,” he said.
“As long as you’re a responsible citizen, you have the freedom to live your life the way you want.”