After Brampton, Toronto council adopts motion to help fight Quebec’s Bill 21 in court

Mayor John Tory in Toronto, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Toronto city council unanimously passed a motion Thursday to provide a financial contribution in support of the legal fight against Quebec’s law restricting religious symbols.

In a statement, the city said council voted to reaffirm Toronto’s opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21 and to provide a one-time contribution of $100,000 to the organizations that have taken up the legal challenge against it.

The lawsuit is led by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the World Sikh Organization of Canada, both Ottawa-based, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, based in Toronto.

Read more: Prime Minister Trudeau not stepping into fight against Bill 21 — for now

Toronto also called on other Canadian municipalities to affirm their opposition to Bill 21 and provide financial contributions to support the legal challenge. Canada’s largest city followed Brampton city council, which on Wednesday was the first to vote to contribute $100,000 to the three groups challenging the Quebec law.

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Adopted in June 2019, Bill 21 prohibits the wearing of religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and turbans by teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority. Debate over the law was revived this month with news that a teacher in Chelsea, Que., had been reassigned because of her hijab.

“We cannot simply stand by as Torontonians and Canadians and see a law like this diminish the protection and respect accorded to religious and to other basic freedoms by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Tory said in a statement Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau comments on Quebec teacher reassigned due to her hijab as result of Bill 21' Trudeau comments on Quebec teacher reassigned due to her hijab as result of Bill 21
Trudeau comments on Quebec teacher reassigned due to her hijab as result of Bill 21 – Dec 13, 2021

Brampton calls itself one of the most diverse communities in Canada and says it wants to show its support for what diversity brings to local communities and to Canada as a whole. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has called Bill 21 discriminatory and has said freedom of religion is a fundamental principle that must be upheld.

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Since Brown called on other cities to get involved, several communities across the country have indicated their support for his initiative and have said they would put requests for funding to their respective councils.

On Wednesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek also said she wanted to put money toward the legal fight against Bill 21, calling the provincial law “unconscionable.”

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