Opinion | Canada’s federal leaders show cowardice by denying the racist premise of Bill 21

The only offensive thing about Shachi Kurl’s question in the Canadian English debate on Bill 21 is the cowardly reaction from our federal leaders.

On the night of the debate, Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, asked a question about a law that prohibits the use of religious symbols for some public sector workers in Quebec. Although she never implied that all Quebecers are racist, many threw her under the bus for suggesting that they were.

While the reactions of Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois and the Prime Minister of Québec, François Legault were predictable, regardless of how the question might have been phrased, many religious minorities are disappointed by the deviation of our other federal leaders after the debate, from condemning the premise of the question to demanding an apology from the debating consortium.

Rather than seize the moment to take a position and talk about how problematic Bill 21 is for Canadians, federal leaders have opted for the convenience and protection of votes in Quebec by adopting the language of apologists, manipulating the question and largely avoiding what should be a time for serious conversation.

While Justin Trudeau said he would not rule out “intervening” against Bill 21, he also claimed that he had a hard time “processing” Kurl’s question and that it implied that all “Quebecers are racists.” Erin O’Toole, in response, stated that “Quebecers are not racist and it is unfair to make such a broad categorization.” Jagmeet Singh, who called the bill discriminatory, also said that “it is a mistake to imply that only one province has a systemic racism problem.” Despite this, many saw these answers as serious levels of deviation from the actual question posed by Kurl.

As much as supporters of Bill 21 like to suggest that it is a product of Quebec’s unique culture and relationship to secularism (secularism), that is not the full story and only works to mask some of the disturbing realities. and motivations of the law.

Bill 21 is also a product of Islamophobia, intolerance and, yes, racism. The sentiments that drive support for Bill 21 also exist in other parts of the country, and affected religious communities want us all to fight. Canadians must stop pretending that this is a localized problem, and our leaders must know that their positions regarding the fight against hate and racism in all its forms appear hypocritical in light of their post-debate reactions.

the investigate on Bill 21 is incredibly clear. It leads to increased racism against religious minorities. Create second-class citizens. It disproportionately targets minority communities. And it expels people from Quebec, including my friend Amrit Kaur, who as an Amritdhari Sikh teacher now works in British Columbia instead of her home province because of that law.

What’s annoying is that it took a question from a racialized woman to start a conversation about Bill 21 that our federal leaders had been trying to avoid. What is even more disturbing is that rather than facing the problem for what it is, many commentators and politicians took the time to punish Kurl for suggesting that the bill is discriminatory, as well as expressing their dismay at the fact. that challenging the issue head-on has, among other things. things, partisan campaigns interrupted in the province.

It is as if calling a legislative act discriminatory or racist is worse than the fact that the legislative act is actually discriminatory and racist.

Some have even suggested that making this an issue only plays into the hands of Blanchet and the Bloc Québécois, as if that meant we should simply ignore the problem and pretend that it will somehow resolve itself. It’s been years of tiptoeing and political appeasement around Bill 21, and as someone who has helped fight it, enough is enough.

What is happening in Quebec is not operating in a vacuum either. Fears of similar legislation and sentiments creeping into other parts of Canada are very real.

For the Sikh community, a community in which I have served as Executive Director of the Sikh World Organization of Canada, we have fought Kirpan turban and shelter battles across Canada. The struggles never end as we have a precarious relationship with the religious accommodation.

Bill 21 simply legitimizes the racism and discrimination that our people face every day everywhere, not just in Quebec. Seeking an apology from the debating consortium and Kurl for a perfectly appropriate question, rather than from legislators disproportionately impacting racialized Canadians, helps and incites the other people who confront our people from coast to coast.

Leaders who claim to understand minority fears and the scale of hatred in Canada are hollow when compared to their reactions to what was one of the most honest depictions of Bill 21 in the political arena to date.

Jaskaran Sandhu is a strategist for State Strategy, a public affairs and relations agency, and is the co-founder of Baaz, a digital news outlet for the Punjabi and Sikh diaspora. He also previously served as Executive Director of the Sikh World Organization of Canada and as Senior Advisor to the Brampton Mayor’s Office. You can follow Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_


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