Ottawa

Council to consider $100K support for legal challenge to Quebec's Bill 21

Following a string of Canadian cities that have pledged $100,000 to support the legal challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21, Ottawa’s city council will consider a similar move next month.

While against Bill 21, Mayor Watson doesn’t support donating taxpayer money

Coun. Diane Deans, who plans to run for mayor in this fall's election, said in a tweet, 'As the nation’s capital, we must protect our racialized communities against discrimination and … Quebec’s Bill 21 infringes upon those rights.' (CBC)

Ottawa council will consider giving $100,000 to support the legal challenge to Quebec's Bill 21 next month, after a string of Canadian cities have pledged to help fight the legislation.

A motion — put forward by Coun. Diane Deans and seconded by Coun. Rawlson King — asks the city to approve spending the money to support the joint legal challenge to the bill being brought by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the World Sikh Organization and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The law, adopted by the province in June 2019, prohibits the wearing of religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and turbans by teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority. 

Debate over the law was revived in December when a teacher in Chelsea, Que., was reassigned because of her hijab and a poll suggests since that move, support for the law has dropped in Quebec.

We have to stay within our sphere of responsibility.— Mayor Jim Watson

In December, Brampton, Ont., pledged $100,000 to the constitutional challenge in a motion, unanimously passed by its council. The city's mayor then called on 100 Canadian mayors and councils to "join the fight." 

Toronto's council followed suit the next day, matching the financial contribution, as did Burlington, Ont., and London, Ont. 

Deans, who plans to run for mayor in this fall's election, said in a tweet, "As the nation's capital, we must protect our racialized communities against discrimination and uphold our shared values of tolerance and diversity. Quebec's Bill 21 infringes upon those rights." 

Her motion is set to be discussed at the next council meeting.

Mayor opposes pledging tax dollars to fight 

While Mayor Jim Watson has already said he doesn't support Bill 21 — he called it "divisive and abhorrent" — he's also said the city shouldn't spend money on issues outside its jurisdiction. 

"I don't support using tax dollars to fight another level of government," Watson said. "We have to stay within our sphere of responsibility."

He suggested the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has a fund that would be a more appropriate place to source financial support. 

Council can still "detest" the law and make that known, which he said it did in a motion passed in February 2020. That motion was brought forward by Coun. Shawn Menard and seconded by Coun. Catherine McKenney.

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