The prime minister should stop gambling and instead refer Bill 21 to the Supreme Court of Canada for a clear decision.

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In April, Canadians will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver a vibrant speech in the House of Commons on its importance, basking in the glory of his father in repatriating the Constitution and bringing the letter. Unfortunately, for many minorities in Quebec, that speech will sound empty.

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Trudeau has the ability to say the right thing. Following the decision to remove a Muslim woman from her teaching job because she wears a hijab, she said the discriminatory nature of Bill 21 “was no longer theoretical.” He was right, but we didn’t need to see a capable young woman lose her position to know that. It’s been there in black and white since Bill 21 was adopted.

When it comes to truly standing up for minority rights, Trudeau has completely failed. He is often invited to speak in minority communities in Canada. Speak a good game, showing real excitement when talking about these topics. But he flinches when the time comes to do something to defend those rights.

Bill 21 will eventually make it to the Supreme Court of Canada. The question is when.

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It took more than two years for the main legal challenge to Bill 21 to bounce back and forth in Quebec courts. Successive decisions have confirmed that it is indeed discriminatory, that certain sections are not spared by the clause however and that it does not apply to constitutionally guaranteed English school boards but, on second thought … it still does, for now! It’s a legal snakes and ladders game. There is only one person in Canada who can get the Supreme Court to examine the matter without further delay, and that is Justin Trudeau.

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Bill 21 can and should be referred to the Supreme Court for a clear decision. That is what was done when the question of Quebec’s right to secede needed clarification. It was a worthwhile effort that came to the conclusion that it was not enough to just have quantitative clarity, a clear majority. The Supreme Court also required qualitative clarity: a clear question, clean rules, and a fair process.

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There was no romp. It was sent directly to the Supreme Court. That is what should happen with Bill 21. Since it is inevitable that the Supreme Court decides its fate, the deadlock makes no sense and causes real harm to those who are discriminated against.

Quebec, of course, has not stopped there. Legault has also introduced Bill 96, which seeks to amend the 1867 Constitution (the BNA Act) unilaterally, undermining the equality of French and English before the Quebec courts. It’s Pirates of Penzance stuff. Comic opera. The Constitution could not be clearer. Any amendment affecting language rights requires a motion before both houses of Parliament. So far, Trudeau has said he’s willing to accept, just as he’s doing with Bill 21. It’s a shameful abdication of responsibility.

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The number one job of any prime minister is to defend the Constitution. Want to be honest about the fact that Quebec never signed the 1982 Constitution? Fill your boots. It is a big horn problem that is the elephant in the room in all these discussions. It just makes no difference to the fact that all Canadians have the same rights and that Quebecers have the same rights as all other Canadians.

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It has been a difficult few years for Quebec’s minorities, both religious and linguistic. Legault is slowly making Quebec a very separate place from the rest of Canada. Much is lost with a groan, not a bang.

The timid failure of Trudeau and conservative leader Erin O’Toole to defend those rights stands in stark contrast to the efforts that true leaders made 40 years ago to guarantee them.

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as Minister of the Environment in Jean Charest’s liberal Quebec government.

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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