PICS Society urges leaders across Canada to stand against Quebec’s Bill 21


By Link News Desk

SURREY: The Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society, aSurrey based not-for-profit organization, has written a letter to express its strong condemnation of Quebec’s controversial Bill 21that prohibits Quebec residents from wearing “clothing, a symbol, jewelry, adornments, accessories orheadwear” that is connected to a religious belief.

The letter also expressed concerns about the recent statements of the Quebec’s Premier Legault in upholding this legislation and its consequences. It is urging community leaders and those advocating for racialized communities, “to band together and send a clear message that a bill like this is unacceptable in our country.”

PIC’s whose mission is to work towards inter-cultural understanding for the purpose of building an inclusive and mutually respectful society.This is one more move from the society to promote mutual respect towards other cultures. “In a pluralistic society like Canada, Bill 21 is both morally and legally offensive and would set a dangerous precedent which will significantly erode the rights of minority religious communities living in Quebec,” said Satbir Singh Cheema, CEO and president PICS.

Quebec’s secularism law, commonly known as Bill 21, was passed into law by the Quebec National Assembly on June 16, 2019. The 18-page law contains many statements of principle declaring the province’s commitment to secularism, or laïcité, but also fine details like imposing a dress code on several categories of provincial civil servants, including police officers and teachers. Article 6 of the law prohibits wearing “clothing, a symbol, jewelry, adornments, accessories or headwear” that is connected to a religious belief or could be “reasonably considered” as such. While the law is popular in Quebec is also hotly contested in the province, and across Canada. Several people from religious minorities who have been forced to choose between career ambitions and religious faith are challenging the law, supported by advocacy groups.

“More than two years have passed since the Quebec government introduced Bill 21 restricting visible religious imagery — including head and face coverings (hijabs, turbans, crucifixes and yarmulkes)— in the public service. Despite its professed support for religious neutrality, Bill 21’s ban on religious symbols is fundamentally inconsistent with how this constitutional principle is actually understood in Canadian law,” Cheema said.

“Bill 21 is discriminatory, repugnant, anti-woman, anti-immigrant and a direct attack on the religious freedoms and the freedom of expression of many members of certain religious groups. It disproportionately impacts people who are already marginalized and prevents public institutions in Quebec to be a true reflection of the communities they are meant to serve,” he said.

Whatever one’s traditions, beliefs and practices, we have lived in this country for many years with neighbours of different faiths and traditions. People should not be forced to make the choice between their religion, their identity and their profession. The government should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on the people of Quebec, nor should they be dictating to individuals what they can and cannot wear, the letter stated.

Every Canadian who chooses to wear symbols such as the kippah, turban, or hijab should also have a right to freedom of expression and religion, and to make their own choices without government interference, like all people in Canada.

Asking leaders to take stand against the Bill, Cheema said, “We strongly urge all elected officials atall levels of Government across the country and community leaders advocating for racialized communities, to bandtogether and send a clear message that a bill like this is unacceptable in our country. This is not just a local, Quebec issue. Bill 21 is the most blatant example of a Canadian law, at least in recent years, that tramples on the rights of religious and, in some cases, racial minorities in the name of preserving the “secular” quality of the State. It’s certainly unacceptable to a vast majority of Canadian population, and we want our voices to be heard.”