The City of London is officially joining other Canadian municipalities in providing financial support in the legal fight against Quebec’s law restricting religious symbols.
While Bill 21 was adopted in June 2019, debate over it was revived this month after a teacher in Chelsea, Que., was reassigned because of her hijab. The bill prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by teachers and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority.
At Tuesday’s full council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to officially express opposition to the bill and voted 13-2 to contribute $100,000 to assist in the legal challenge against it, with councillors Paul Van Meerbergen and Michael Van Holst voting against providing the funding.
Ward 6 Coun. Mariam Hamou, who is a member of the London Islamic community, wears a hijab herself and told Global News last week that the bill takes away people’s rights.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, she argued that this fight is about protecting democracy.
“Secularism in the past has been about creating more freedom. This secular law is about taking away freedoms, and any time you take away freedoms, you erode democracy and this is one reason, one reason we have to fight against this.”
The lawsuit against Quebec’s Bill 21 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.
Brampton led the charge to contribute $100,000 to the three groups challenging the Quebec law with Toronto following soon after.
Calgary voted to support other municipalities in a call to action to condemn the legislation but decided not to provide funding at this time. Instead, the municipality will be forming a task force to consult with the community.
— with files from Global News’ Sawyer Bogdan and Adam MacVicar as well as a file from The Canadian Press