Bill 21: A Step Closer To Authoritarianism


Sikh Heritage Manitoba is extremely concerned by the passing of Bill 21 - An Act respecting the laicity of the State by the Quebec national assembly. 


This legislation introduced by the Coalition Avenir Quebec government prohibits public sector employees from wearing religious symbols. Passed during late hours of June 16 with a vote of 73-35, this bill not only violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is also one step closer to state authoritarianism.


The Government of Quebec passed Bill 21 after Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) called closure-a strategy to end the debate- and called a vote to accelerate the passing of Bill 21. 


The same strategy was used by the CAQ led government to pass Bill 9, a disputable law invalidating 18,000 pending immigration applications to Quebec. Bill 9 allows the government to introduce a values test for prospective immigrants which they will need to pass in order to attain permanent resident status in Quebec.


Canadians residing in Quebec who want to serve the community along with practicing their religion will be forced to choose their faith or employment. Public sector employees include police officers, public prosecutors, judges, teachers and principals among others. 


This bill which is framed as a secular one is in fact one step closer to authoritarianism allowing the state to enforce regulations on those who wear an article of their faith as a part of their identity or religious duty.


Secularism is defined as indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations; simply means the separation of church and state. Secularism prevents the government to dictate the religious beliefs of people and Bill 21 breaches the very concept of Secularism. 


This bill not only prevents Canadians from serving their community but sets a dangerous precedent, the precedent of invoking the notwithstanding clause. It allows provinces to override and undermine protected freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms. Additionally, it shows that the government is undermining the basic rights of its citizens. 


We at Sikh Heritage Manitoba strongly condemn Bill 21 and view this as an infringement on freedom to practice one’s religion without discrimination. It is a right protected by Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Section 3 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

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