Community members rally in Chelsea in support of hijab-wearing teacher and against Bill 21

Chelsea residents gather in solidarity with hijab-wearing teacher and to protest against Quebec's secularism law known as Bill 21. Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

More than 100 people attended a rally in Chelsea, Que., on Tuesday, more than one week after a teacher who wears a hijab was removed from her Grade 3 classroom over Bill 21.

The Western Quebec School Board informed parents on Dec. 3 that the teacher was being reassigned due to the province’s secularism law that prevents certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols while working.

Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault said the teacher should have never been hired in the first place.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while he wouldn’t challenge the law in court — at least not now — he said he deeply disagrees with it.

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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.

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Parents, students and community members in Chelsea aren’t backing down. They held a protest at noon outside the offices of Robert Bussière, the MNA responsible for Gatineau.

Amanda De Grace, says it’s important to keep the issue at the forefront.

“A lot of students and their parents came out today to this event, and the conversations are going to continue in our community as we come together, rally together and push for a change,” she said.

Both De Grace and Chelsea resident Susan Rab, feel such protests — no matter the size — can be impactful.

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I believe that rallies like this get people talking and get people thinking and will get people voting,” Rab said. “And we get rid of bad laws by putting pressure on governments over time.”

Click to play video: 'Quebec teacher removed from classroom over hijab'
Quebec teacher removed from classroom over hijab

Rab says she’s been against what Bill 21 stands for since it was passed into law.

“The law discriminates whether it was meant to discriminate or not,” she said. “If some people can’t do certain jobs, then that’s discrimination. And in our society, discrimination is wrong.”

Sara Roulston, another Chelsea resident, called Bill 21 embarrassing.

“I’m embarrassed by this law, and embarrassed by what it’s done for a teacher at this school and what it says about my province and my country,” she said.

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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.

Another protest, this time in Montreal, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Place des Arts.

— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez, Anne Leclair

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