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Edmonton city council approves resolution to protest Quebec’s Bill 21

People protest against Law 21 outside Quebec Premier Francois Legault's office in Montreal, Sunday, June 14, 2020, on the one year year anniversary of the controversial bill.
People protest against Law 21 outside Quebec Premier Francois Legault's office in Montreal, Sunday, June 14, 2020, on the one year year anniversary of the controversial bill. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Edmonton city council has approved a resolution that it will present to Alberta’s other cities and towns later this year to denounce Quebec’s secularism law.

The legislation, known as Bill 21, bars some public-sector employees — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols while at work.

Members of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association have until June 30 to submit resolutions for the fall convention and trade show. It is scheduled at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre from Sept. 23 to 25.

It is expected Calgary city council will second Edmonton’s resolution after it approves the move at its meeting on Monday.

Edmonton Coun. Moe Banga has taken the lead on the resolution to condemn Quebec’s ban on religious symbols in the public sector. Banga sits on the AUMA board as director for cities over 500,000.

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Read more: Quebec government ‘happy’ after Supreme Court declines to hear Bill 21 challenge, premier says

Council heard stories of racism in its public hearings looking into police conduct.

“Discussions that we have been having in chambers last week have centred on recognition of the systemic nature of discrimination, bias and prejudice in our institutions and our systems,” Banga said.

“Bill 21 is not a piece of legislation in Alberta. But this is not a reason for us to remain silent.”

Banga said systemic discrimination and biases “exist in all of our systems and institutions, and it manifests in many different ways.”

“This resolution would be a public statement of opposition to the use of state apparatus to infringe on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said.

Read more: Quebec’s top court refuses to suspend province’s secularism law

On both occasions when Banga was sworn in as a city councillor, he tied a rumāl — a Sikh bandana –around his head before taking the oath of office.

“It’s not just us. It’ll take all of us to let Quebec know that this is not fair and this is not good for our Charter of Rights,” he said.

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Three other resolutions Edmonton wants to submit by June 30 deal with supportive housing (which will be seconded by Grande Prairie), a fiscal framework for cities (by Red Deer) and for permanent transit funding (by St. Albert).

The three will be done “all enthusiastically from the conversations with their mayors,” Mayor Don Iveson said when council voted on them this past week.

“That’s important coalition-building with some of our mid-sized friends.”