Protesters stage hunger strike against Quebec secularism law

Click to play video: 'Quebec activists protest CAQ’s new secularism law'
Quebec activists protest CAQ’s new secularism law
Activists have organized a hunger strike outside the Quebec premier's Montreal office. They say they are opposing the CAQ's newly minted secularism bill, which they say is creating divisions in Quebec society. Global's Phil Carpenter reports – Jun 19, 2019

Opposition to the Quebec government’s secularism law continues to grow with a group of protesters camping out in front of Premier François Legault’s Montreal office for a five-day hunger strike.

They want to support those who will be affected by Bill 21, which was passed on Sunday.

“We refuse to abandon our fellow Quebecers who have now been legally relegated to second-class status,” said lawyer May Chiu while addressing the protesters.

The Act Respecting the Laicity of the State restricts the wearing of any religious symbols by some public sector employees like teachers, judges and police officers.  Legault says it will end the debate over religious accommodation in the province.

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“It’s moderate and I think we’ve asked compromises to all parties, and we see that,” he said. “Some people think we did not go far enough.”

Protesters argue the debate is far from over. They plan to keep talking about the issue because they claim the law is legislated racism and they say people are being targeted as a result.

“I’m angry,” said Mubeenah Mughal while fighting back tears. “I mean most of the time I’ve just — I cry.  When you have that anger when you feel powerless and you know it’s like something so wrong, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I think for some people this [protest] gives them something they can do, like instead of burning on the inside.”

She adds that the law even opens the door to discrimination in other areas.

“Even in other jobs that aren’t affected by this law, people might feel that they have more of a right to discriminate,” she said.

Protesters want the law repealed and say this strike is just one step towards reaching that goal.

Legault says he’s not surprised that there is push back against the law but claims that most Quebecers support it.

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“What I see since Sunday is that the vast majority of Quebecers are happy,” he said.

Activists say that much of this support is driven by ignorance.

“In general there’s a lack on knowledge of these communities in general and so there can be a measure of fear,” Louis Ramirez told Global News.

The demonstrators want the five-day hunger strike to help draw attention to that fact and hope it will help lead to more dialogue between groups.

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