Calgary councillors could soon be joining their colleagues in other Canadian cities to challenge Quebec’s Bill 21.
On Wednesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she and Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra were working on a notice of motion to join Brampton, Ont., Mayor Patrick Brown in a legal challenge of the controversial bill.
“Together with Brampton, we are issuing a challenge to other municipalities in this country, asking us to contribute towards the legal challenge to get rid of Bill 21,” she said.
The move comes the week after a Quebec school board enforced Bill 21, removing a teacher from her class for wearing a hijab, a veil worn by some Muslim women.
“At that point I reached out to Mayor Gondek and I said: ‘Is it time for this council to re-up our previous opposition to this and our basic statement of how un-Canadian it is?’” Carra said.
He said the exact wording of the motion is still under construction.
“What Quebec is doing is unconscionable,” Gondek said. “Bill 21 is something that needs to be challenged.”
Gondek said Brown and the Brampton City Council passed a decision to contribute $100,000 to support the National Council of Canadian Muslims, which is mounting the legal challenge. Calgary City Council faces the same decision on Monday.
She said it has come to municipalities to challenge the bill.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “deeply” disagrees with Bill 21, but did not want to give Quebec a reason to start a fight with Ottawa. Instead, the prime minister said he’d like to see Quebecers speak up about the bill.
Carra said the lack of willingness from federal political parties to step in and challenge the bill spurred on the municipalities.
“Nobody wants to lose seats in Quebec, but the country has to weigh in on this,” he told Global News. “And so like many, many things before it – whether they’re obscure like shark fin soup or whether they’re anti-smoking bylaws or things like – it really falls to municipalities where everyone lives to to make the stands, the early stands, that shape the national discourse.”
Carra expects his colleagues to pass the item on Monday and hopes to see other municipalities “stepping in and asserting our Canadian values together as the places where Canadians live.”
“When we allow things like this to happen in our nation, it sends a message that we’re okay with it,” Gondek said. “And as municipalities we have long been ignored.
“We have been taken for granted and we do not often get recognized for the role that we can play in leadership and we will not be doing that anymore.”
In 2019, Calgary city council passed a notice of motion that took a public stance against Bill 21.
Former mayor Naheed Nenshi and former councillors George Chahal and Diane Colley-Urquhart were tasked with collaborating with the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.
Gondek said she anticipates hearing an update on that work in the near future.
“Obviously not much has happened since (2019), so if we now need to go to a legal challenge to protect the rights of Canadians then that’s where we’re at,” the mayor said.
–with files from Gloria Henriquez and Alessia Simona Maratta, Global News