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Minority groups worry Bill 21 ruling will lead to more discrimination in Quebec

Click to play video: 'Bill 21 court decision will further discrimination, say Quebec minority groups'
Bill 21 court decision will further discrimination, say Quebec minority groups
WATCH: Following the Quebec Court of Appeal decision on Thursday that Bill 21, the province's secularism law, is constitutional, affected minority groups are speaking out. They feel they have fewer opportunities in Quebec in the Bill 21 era. As Global’s Elizabeth Zogalis reports, Montreal's Muslim and Sikh communities say the decision will further discriminate against them – Mar 1, 2024

Following the Quebec court of appeal decision on Thursday that Bill 21, the province’s secularism law, is constitutional, affected minority groups are speaking out.

In a unanimous decision, the province’s highest court upheld the law that prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority — including teachers, judges, and police officers — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Montreal’s Muslim and Sikh communities feel the decision will only further discrimination in Quebec.

Judges, teachers and police officers are the positions singled out in Bill 21. But McGill university law professor and South Asian Women’s Community Centre president, Vrinda Narain, argues women have felt it the most.

“(The court) didn’t understand equality, they didn’t understand intersectionality, they didn’t understand that by endorsing every aspect of Bill 21, minority rights are being crushed in Quebec,” said Narain.

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Amrit Kaur knows firsthand how women have been affected. She left Montreal after receiving her teaching degree to pursue her dream. The court’s decision on Thursday left her with an uneasy feeling.

“It’s sad that one part of Quebec society is celebrating another person’s loss. It doesn’t really seem like a Quebec value,” said Kaur, who now lives in British Columbia.

As a teacher, Kaur feels Bill 21 will deeply affect children growing up in Quebec.

“They miss out on meeting different types of people, hearing different life experiences, being inclusive and tolerance,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Quebec Court of Appeal rules that secularism law known as Bill 21 is constitutional'
Quebec Court of Appeal rules that secularism law known as Bill 21 is constitutional

Harsimar Singh is a lawyer in Montreal who was in a meeting discussing how to improve Quebec infrastructure and mobility when the decision came down.

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“We’re here discussing ways to improve the lives of our neighbors and within that same hour I am getting a notification on my phone. ‘Oh by the way, someone like you is not actually welcome in our province,'” said Singh.

He worries about what this means for young Quebecers who look like him.

“There is place for them in this province and they need to stay,” he added. But Singh admits it’s getting harder to trust what he preaches.

Premier François Legault called the decision a major win for the majority of Quebecers who support the law.

“Because there’s a consensus within Quebecers, I think it will be a lack of respect to oppose this law,” he said during a press conference on Friday.

The court’s decision was unanimous but religious minorities affected by Bill 21 have their own unanimous opinion.

“Instead of bringing them into the mainstream of life, I feel that Bill 21 has pushed them even further away,” said Narain.

It’s expected groups will appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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