On behalf of 79,000 members, including over 33,000 public service workers in B.C., the BCGEU condemns the decision of the Coalition Avenir Quebec Government to pass Bill 21 in Quebec which bans the wearing of religious symbols by public service workers in a position of authority. Any public employee should have the freedom to express their religious and spiritual beliefs in a safe and secure environment. As instances of Islamophobia, Antisemitism and other forms of racism are on the rise, this bill will act to push many Muslims, Jews and Sikhs to the margins of society. There is no doubt the impact of this bill will be felt beyond the public service, as the public rhetoric supporting this bill has been largely xenophobic. Muslim women in Quebec have already reported an increase in hate since this bill was tabled in March.
We are also very concerned about the fact that Bill 21 infringes upon the freedom of religion protections enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms at a time when those very protections and the principles behind them need to be reinforced. The passing of this bill picks on the most marginalized segments of society (in particular women), many of whom are racialized and newcomers. It has no place in a society where the principles of equality and freedom are paramount.
The BCGEU supports in principle the National Council of Canadian Muslims and Canadian Civil Liberties Association legal challenge against Bill 21. We call on other unions, organizations, and local governments to support the legal challenge to this discriminatory piece of legislation.
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