More and more demerged Montreal municipalities are coming out against the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s Bill 21, which would ban public employees from wearing religious symbols.
“It just doesn’t make sense that we can’t hire the best employee just because they’re wearing a religious symbol,” said Montreal-West Mayor Beny Masella. Masella heads the Association of Suburban Municipalities, which represents 15 demerged on-island communities. The group is against Bill 21 in its current form.
“When the entire island of Montreal, which is a very diverse community, is being represented by mayors and leaders saying there’s a problem with this bill, they should look at it,” said Westmount Mayor Christina Smith.
“Certainly we think we should vigorously contest the law,” said Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle.
A number of the suburban municipalities told Global News they plan to openly break the law if it is passed.
“I’m not interested in applying it,” said Masella.
“If the best person to apply for the job has a religious symbol, I don’t have a problem moving forward with that,” said Smith.
Côte St-Luc promises to defy too, and so does Baie-d’Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino.
“It is unthinkable that we are entertaining removing some rights from very qualified, competent and caring individuals because of their personal faith,” said Tutino. “I would expect that the majority of the town councillors would vote with me to defy the law.”
Bourelle said his city would follow the law if passed.
“I think it’s going a bit too far,” he told Global News.
Bourelle said defying the law would send the wrong message.
“If we expect people to respect the law and adhere to the law, we as municipalities should not turn around and say, ‘We won’t do that,'” he said.
The municipalities hope the law changes substantially before being passed, and that they won’t be forced to defy it.