Liberal and Conservative MPs’ Calls Grow for Federal Intervention on Quebec Bill 21 | The Canadian News

The liberal government and opposition conservatives face calls from within to mount a more direct challenge to Quebec’s controversial secularism law after a teacher was removed from the classroom for wearing a hijab.

Federal parties and their parliamentarians have spent the past week reacting to the law, known as Bill 21, which prohibits some public servants considered in positions of authority, such as teachers, judges and police, from wearing religious symbols at work.

The law was passed in 2019, but received renewed attention outside of Quebec last week after it emerged that Fatemeh Anvari, a third-grade teacher, was told she could no longer teach in a classroom because she was wearing a hijab.

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One of the federal politicians who called for a stronger condemnation of the bill was Conservative MP Mark Strahl, a representative from British Columbia.

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has said that while he personally opposes the law, he believes it is one that only Quebecers should grapple with and that a government led by him would not intervene in any judicial challenge.

But Strahl said he believes “some issues are beyond jurisdiction.”


Click to play video: 'Bloc Quebecois demands that the government respond if it is going to present a legal challenge to Quebec Bill 21'



Bloc Quebecois demands that the government respond if it will undertake a legal challenge to Quebec’s bill 21


Bloc Quebecois demands that the government respond if it will undertake a legal challenge to Quebec’s bill 21

The deputy said he believes conservatives should re-examine his position, which he said is unclear, and be prepared to challenge the law in court.

“We cannot let laws like that go unchallenged,” he told reporters before addressing the Conservatives’ national caucus meeting on Wednesday, where he said the issue would be raised.

“It is a position shared by many, many of my colleagues.”

Conservative Senator Salma Ataullahjan issued a statement calling Bill 21 “discriminatory and racist,” saying that she cannot remain silent in conscience while her fellow Canadians are being openly attacked.

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Prime Minister Trudeau is not intervening in the fight against Bill 21, for now

In a later interview, she said that she felt compelled as a Muslim to speak out and believes there has been a lack of leadership on the issue.

“We cannot be selective about human rights,” he said.

Despite the desire of some to take a tougher stance, O’Toole and other members of his group left the meeting saying that nothing had changed.

Leaving, O’Toole, speaking in French, reiterated his personal opposition to the law, saying that conservatives should speak as a team on important issues.

As for the liberals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated Wednesday that he has not ruled out federal intervention “at the right time” in a judicial challenge to the law. However, for now he suggested that it is better to let the Quebecers themselves lead that fight.


Click to play video: 'Trudeau comments on reassignment of a Quebec teacher due to her hijab as a result of Bill 21'



Trudeau comments on Quebec teacher reassignment due to her hijab as a result of Bill 21


Trudeau comments on Quebec teacher reassignment due to her hijab as a result of Bill 21

“I think the only thing to remember in all of this is that Quebecers believe in a free and open society. Quebecers believe in freedom of expression, Quebecers believe in the equality of men and women, Quebecers believe in freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, “he said at a press conference.

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“And right now, a lot of Quebecers are wondering how in a free society someone could lose their job because of their religion.”

During Wednesday’s question period, Québec Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet challenged Trudeau to test Québec public opinion on the matter in a referendum. Polls suggest that the majority of Quebecers support the law.

The bloc leader also criticized Trudeau for allowing United Nations ambassador Bob Rae to label the law discriminatory, which Blanchet said amounted to criticizing Quebec.

On Tuesday, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh changed his previous stance to say that he would support Ottawa in facing a judicial challenge.

Liberal MP Salma Zahid, who wears a hijab, issued a statement this week saying it was time for Ottawa to join the legal challenge against the law mounted by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

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“This cannot be allowed to go unanswered,” he said.

“To date, the challenge has come from civil society. But as a party that brought the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canada, as a government that defends human rights around the world, we cannot allow the burden of this struggle to fall solely on civil society. “

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Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather also said this week that he wants a national debate on the usage and rules surrounding the notwithstanding clause, which Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault preemptively invoked. The clause gives provincial legislatures and Parliament the ability to introduce legislation that nullifies the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years.

It’s a conversation that others have suggested was long delayed, four decades after the clause was created as part of the constitutional talks. Housefather said the discussion should include whether the clause can be invoked without actual judicial challenge to the law in question, as Legault did when Bill 21 was passed.

Newly elected Ottawa Liberal MP Jenna Sudds had similar sentiments in a statement she issued on the secularism law. She called it “a manifestation of intolerant and xenophobic sentiments” that may require federal intervention.

“Canadian governments at all levels have an unwavering commitment to the principles of freedom of religion and expression,” he said. “We cannot, in conscience, sit idly by and allow this bill to go unchallenged, because what we allow, we promote.”

– With files from Mia Rabson

© 2021 The Canadian Press



Reference-globalnews.ca

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