Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo city council to denounce Quebec's religious symbols law

The City of Waterloo's finance and strategic planning committee passed a motion Monday to denounce Quebec's passing of Bill 21 and reaffirm the city's commitment to religious freedom.

Motion passed at committee meeting Monday

The city of Waterloo's finance and strategic planning committee passed a motion Monday to denounce Quebec's passing of Bill 21 and reaffirm the city's commitment to religious freedom. Fauzia Mazhar (left) and Sarah Shafiq (right) of the Coalition of Muslim Women of K-W told council they worry the Bill could set a precedent for other parts of the country. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The City of Waterloo's finance and strategic planning committee passed a motion Monday to denounce Quebec's passing of Bill 21 and reaffirm the city's commitment to religious freedom.

Bill 21 forbids certain public servants from wearing religious symbols and was passed in Quebec in the spring of 2019.

In passing a motion to denounce Bill 21, Waterloo is following Kitchener, where councillors voted on a similar motion in late August.

Fauzia Mazhar, executive director of the coalition of Muslim Women of K-W, presented to council in advance of their vote. She said that although Quebec is a separate province, it is still a part of Canada — and the responsibility of all Canadians.

"When we see anything which is unconstitutional and it's taking away the rights of any Canadians anywhere in Canada, we all have a responsibility to stand up and make sure that it doesn't happen," said Mazhar.

Since Bill 21 was passed in Quebec, Mazhar said she's heard from people locally who've said they felt unsafe and worry that the law could set a precedent for other parts of Canada.

During the meeting, several councillors made comments in support of the motion, addressing Mazhar and her co-delegate Sarah Shafiq directly.

"From an employment standpoint, government should be open to anyone," Mayor Dave Jaworsky said at the meeting.

The full council for Waterloo still needs to vote on the entire package from Monday's meeting, including the motion on Bill 21, but Jaworsky said in an email it's unlikely the package will require further discussion.

With the support of Kitchener and Waterloo in the bag, Mazhar said her organization now hopes that council for Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo will follow suit.

"It does not have to be the same [wording], but basically sending the message that we … stand against any effort to take away the rights of any Canadian, including religious minorities."