Friday, December 10, 2021

Bill 21 on the International Day of Human Rights

Today, December 10, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948, is the International Day of Human Rights. Which seems like the time to say something about Quebec's Bill 21. That's the "laicity" law that  

... proposes to prohibit certain persons from wearing religious symbols while exercising their functions.

.... 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.

It cannot be got around: the bill constitutes discrimination, and given the practices it actually prohibits, discriminates against ethnic and racial minorities and faith communities for following customs they should entitled to follow if they choose.  

I don't think support in Quebec for this bill is going to last, notwithstanding the notwithstanding clauses, and even though at the moment any non-Quebecker who criticizes it risks being accused of being anti-Quebec by those who see nationalism as a wedge for creating divisions. 

A bill that drives a Grade Three teacher out of the classroom because she wears a hijab will not be saved by blather about the separation of church and state. Quebec has progressive and conservative communities, but it's not a racist society more than other parts of Canada. The decent, anti-racist, and tolerant traits of Quebec will eventually come to the fore on this issue, and eventually those on the other side of the issue will grow ashamed of defending it. 

International Human Rights logo: By Predrag Stakić


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