Calgary

Calgary mayor hopes to join fight against controversial Quebec Bill 21

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek wants to join other municipalities in supporting a legal challenge of a controversial Quebec law. 

Bill 21 prohibits some public servants from wearing religious symbols on the job

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek spoke to reporters Wednesday, calling a 2019 Quebec law "unconscionable." (Mike Symington/CBC)

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek wants to join other municipalities in supporting a legal challenge of a controversial Quebec law. 

The law, known as Bill 21, prohibits some public servants including teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority, from wearing religious symbols on the job, including a headscarf, a turban, a kippah or a visible crucifix. 

This comes after a Quebec teacher was forced from her job in the classroom for wearing a hijab.

"What Quebec is doing is absolutely unconscionable… we are issuing a challenge to other municipalities in this country, asking us to contribute towards the legal challenge to get rid of Bill 21," Gondek said. 

"Sometimes there are things that are the last straw, and that teacher — who was let go for no reason other than wearing what they will call a religious symbol — that was the end of it," Gondek said. 

Gondek says she spoke with Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown who issued the call. Brown says his city council is committing $100,000 to a legal challenge by the National Council of Canadian Muslims. She will be looking for Calgary to contribute the same amount. 

In a public letter issued Wednesday, Brown asked mayors across Canada to donate to the fund.

"I don't need to tell you that Jewish women who wear wigs, Sikh men who wear turbans, Christians who wear a cross are all at risk of being victims of this un-Canadian legislation, which infringes on fundamental rights of Canadians by discriminating against their religious freedom," Brown wrote.

"Bill 21 is in stark conflict with everything we've been taught and everything we've taught our children about who we are as a country. It's a fact that even young children in the classroom are aware of." 

Calgary city council will discuss the motion next week on whether Calgary should also contribute to the legal challenge.

Bill 21 was tabled in and adopted into law in 2019, the government of Premier François Legault used a parliamentary mechanism called closure to speed its passage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he would not join the legal challenge against Bill 21. 

Speaking to CBC Montreal on Monday Legault said the bill was voted on democratically and was supported by the majority of Quebecers. 

"They can wear their religious sign on the street, at home, everywhere else," he said. 

With files from Scott Dippel, Jade Markus, Peter Zimonjic

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