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Directions, the Canadian Race Relation’s open-access journal, provides community-based, action-oriented research, commentary, and perspectives on eliminating racism and discrimination. We are currently looking for contributors for Directions and hope you will share your expertise, experience and research with us!
On June 16, 2019, the National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 21 into law:
The purpose of this Bill is to affirm the laicity of the State and to set out the requirements that follow from it. To that end, the Bill provides that the laicity of the State is based on four principles: the separation of State and religions, the religious neutrality of the State, the equality of all citizens, and freedom of conscience and freedom of religion …. The Bill proposes to prohibit certain persons from wearing religious symbols while exercising their functions. However, the prohibition does not apply to certain persons holding positions at the time the Bill is introduced, subject to the conditions specified by the Bill. Under the Bill, personnel members of a body must exercise their functions with their face uncovered, and persons who present themselves to receive a service from such a personnel member must have their face uncovered when doing so is necessary to allow their identity to be verified or for security reasons. Persons who fail to comply with that obligation may not receive the service. However, those obligations do not apply to persons whose face is covered for reasons of health or a handicap, or because of the requirements tied to their functions or to the performance of certain tasks. In addition, the Bill amends the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms to specify that persons must maintain proper regard for State laicity in exercising their fundamental freedoms and rights. The Bill’s provisions prevail over those of any subsequent Act, unless expressly stated otherwise. The Bill may not be interpreted as affecting the emblematic or toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage that testify to its history. The Bill has effect despite certain provisions of the Charter of human rights and freedoms and the Constitution Act, 1982. Lastly, the Bill contains consequential amendments and various interpretative, transitional and final provisions.
Critics of Bill 21 contend that the legislation interferes with the ability of individuals to practice their faith and places members of some faith communities in the untenable position of having to choose between their faith and employment.
Does Bill 21 promote equality or does it provide government sanction to discrimination? Does secularism require prohibiting individuals from wearing religious symbols or should the separation of church and state consider matters of greater substance? What will be gained as a result of Bill 21 and what will be lost? What does Bill 21 mean for Quebec, and for Canada.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation invites you to share your opinion with our readers:
More about Directions:
This journal serves as an important piece of our mission to strengthen Canadian values and to build a united Canadian community. Directions offers a forum for important dialogue and debate on race-related issues and practical recommendations for policy development and change. The most recent published article may be found here https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/subscribe-directions.
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