April 3, 2019 6:34 pm
Updated: April 3, 2019 6:35 pm

Will Montreal defy Quebec’s secularism bill?

A growing number of demerged municipalities in Montreal say they won't abide by the CAQ government's religious symbols bill – but what about the City of Montreal itself? Global's Dan Spector reports.


As Bill 21 continued to spark fiery exchanges at the province’s National Assembly, Montreal and its boroughs continued to reflect on whether or not they should openly defy the religious symbols ban if passed.

“I don’t have any intention of respecting this legislation because I have to respect my people,” said Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough Mayor Jim Beis.

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READ MORE: Group of Montreal suburbs plans to defy CAQ religious symbols bill, but Beaconsfield would obey

Sue Montgomery, mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, reaffirmed her plans to defy the bill.

“I am not going to tell anyone what to wear or what not to wear,” she told Global News in a text message.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is not going as far, despite criticizing the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s plan.

“The question right now is not whether or not we will apply this law,” she said in a statement. “The question right now is how can we make sure the bill takes into consideration Montreal’s reality.”

READ MORE: Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante slams Quebec government’s secularism bill

Bill 21 would bar public sector employees in a state of authority — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious garb in the workplace.

“We have a balanced bill, between collective rights and individual rights,” said Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette at the National Assembly.

The contents of the bill are not yet set in stone. Jolin-Barrette points to upcoming consultations.

“People can give their point of view here at the National Assembly, and they are welcome to do that,” he explained.

The mayor of one of Montreal’s most multicultural boroughs is looking forward to the consultation process.

“I don’t think you can come to the conclusion that this is the law today,” Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan De Sousa told Global News. “There will be changes.”

Saint-Laurent has employees who wear religious symbols, though according to De Sousa, they are not necessarily affected by the proposed law. Unlike others, De Sousa is not ready to promise defiance.

“We need to make sure we have all our facts first,” he said.

WATCH: Westmount students, teachers hold protest over Bill 21

Before pledging to defy the law, De Sousa would want to know the consequences of doing so. It’s a question the CAQ has been asked repeatedly, but has not yet answered.

“Will there be sanctions, and if so, what will they be?” Quebec Liberal Party Leader Pierre Arcand asked Premier François Legault during question period at the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Legault was quick to counter.

“Is the leader of the opposition in agreement with school boards and mayors proposing disobedience?” said Legault.

With months of discussion to come before the bill reaches its final form, the fireworks are far from over.

READ MORE: ‘In Quebec, this is how we live’: Premier Francois Legault reaffirms position on secularism bill

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