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Politics

Marchers show a united front protesting against Bill 21

ABOVE: Montreal protesters rally in the rain against Bill 21

Protesters braved dreary weather to denounce Quebec’s secularism law known as Bill 21 Sunday afternoon.

A coalition of anti-hate groups took to the streets of Parc-Extension to oppose racism and xenophobia.

Justice Femme founder Hanadi Saad said their phones have not stopped ringing since the bill was tabled by François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec’s government on March 28.

“Every week, we receive two or three calls in Justice Femme, all kinds of hate crime, all kinds of discrimination,” she said.

READ MORE: EMSB files legal challenge to Quebec’s secularism law

Bill 21 forbids civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work.

“He (Legault) opened the door to all kinds of hate against all kinds of minorities,” said Saad.

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She says the rise in hate crimes against Muslim women is unprecedented.

“A man, he took out her hijab. Another one, she said, ‘he pushed me in the metro.'”

READ MORE: ‘Discrimination has no jurisdiction’: Calgary council passes motion opposing Quebec’s Bill 21

A study conducted by the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission found that hate crimes in Quebec have seen a higher increase than the rest of Canada.

Between 2015 and 2016, hate crimes in Quebec rose 21 per cent.

While 2017 saw an extreme inflation of hate crimes across Canada, Quebec saw an increase of 49 per cent.

The same study found most hate crimes were directed towards Muslim and Arab people.

However, when these crimes are committed, Saad says most go unreported.

“The people, they’re not reporting to any authority, all of these complaints, because they don’t trust the system,” she said.

EMSB votes in favour of launching legal action against Quebec’s Bill 21
EMSB votes in favour of launching legal action against Quebec’s Bill 21

Kanwarpal Josan’s parents moved to Quebec for a better life for their children.

“My turban is my identity,” he said.

After years of living in Quebec, studying at French schools and joining the workforce, he still doesn’t feel welcomed.

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“I see people looking at me like they see me different when I wear my turban, I don’t feel safe here,” said Josan.

The government refused to comment on Sunday.

In the past, they have defended the secularism law, saying it enjoys strong support among Quebecers.

Advocates and demonstrators at Sunday’s march said they will not stop until Bill 21 is abolished.