“There are some people that are racist in Quebec. It’s not a systemic racism, but some people are racist and we have to fight against that,” the premier stated Thursday.
“It’s unacceptable. … It’s clear that people in the streets, they can wear whatever they can wear, religious signs like Mr. Singh. So it’s unacceptable that somebody says something like that.”
The debate over religious symbols is particularly contentious in Quebec. Earlier this year, the province passed its secularism law, Bill 21, banning civil servants in positions of authority, such as teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious symbols.
Legault insisted the bill “only applies to about one per cent of the jobs in Quebec.” He said this would allow the government to focus on issues related to education, economy and health care.
“It’s clear now more than ever, 99 per cent of the jobs in Quebec you can wear religious signs,” he said.
However, when Global News asked whether he thought the bill was successful — given the recent incident between Singh and the man who insisted, “in Rome, you do as the Romans do” — Legault insisted Quebecers would come around and “it’s a bit like the Bill 101. I’m pretty sure that in three years from now, they will have forgotten about that.”
“I think that by putting parametres, we make sure that the racist people cannot have support in our society.”
Recently, there were at least three reports of newly-hired teachers at the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) — Quebec’s largest school board — who removed their religious symbols in order to accept a teaching contract.
At the time, Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he saw it as a sign of the bill’s success.
“I think it was a bit emotional,” Legault said of the debate surrounding Bill 21.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is currently challenging the validity of the religious symbols law in front of the Court of Appeal of Quebec based on Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees minority language education rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.