Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government won’t wade into the legal challenge taking place in Quebec over Bill 21, the province’s law that bans certain government employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols while at work.
At least for now.
Trudeau said that while he “deeply” disagrees with Bill 21, he doesn’t want to give Quebec reason to start a fight with Ottawa.
“I think the important thing is the province passed the law and Quebecers are defending their rights through the legal process in Quebec,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau explained that it’s important that in the first stages of the legal challenge that’s underway, Quebecers themselves show their disapproval of the controversial law but he didn’t hide his own opinion.
“I don’t find that in a free and open society someone should lose their job because of their religion and this is no longer a theoretical issue,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s comment comes days after a teacher in Chelsea, Qc lost her job because she wears a hijab.
The news made waves in the political scene, prompting many Liberal ministers to harshly criticize Bill 21.
“It’s cowardly,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller last week. Miller is also a Montreal-area MP.
“This type of discrimination isn’t reflective of the Quebec society I want to live in.”
But no one committed to pushing the federal government to fight the bill in court.
The law has been the subject of legal challenges led by civil rights groups and school boards and will likely end up in the Supreme Court.
Trudeau said that while he plans to stay out of the fight for now, his government has not closed the door on the possibility of intervening at some point in time.
Legault responded to the prime minister’s comment, saying people can still work as long as they remove their religious signs at the job and he doesn’t see how Ottawa could step in.
“I think that Bill 21 was voted democratically, was supported by the majority of Quebecers. I don’t see how the federal government can intervene in such a touchy subject in our nation,” Legault said.
Bill 21 was passed on June 2019 with a vote of 73 to 35 at Quebec’s National Assembly.
Meanwhile, a protest is planned for Tuesday against the bill. It will take place in front of the offices of Robert Bussière, the MNA responsible for Gatineau.
— with files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, The Canadian Press