Statement on Quebec Government’s Bill 21

“The Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) strongly condemns the Coalition Avenir de Quebec (CAQ) government’s Bill 21 and considers it an infringement upon the rights of Canadian citizens who profess the Islamic faith.

Quebec, for many decades, has been an inclusive, democratic, and multicultural society in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees everyone freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.

However, the current Bill 21 aims to ban the wearing of the hijab, kippah, and turban for public servants, including teachers, school administrators, Crown lawyers, police officers, correctional officers and others. If the bill becomes a law, it will restrict the freedom of religious minority contravening the fundamental human rights granted upon Canadian citizens.

The bill will isolate and marginalize Canadian Muslim women who are an integral part of Quebec society and voluntarily don the religious wearing (Hijab) from fulfilling their civic duties and taking up public roles as professionals.

The wearing of the Hijab for Canadian Muslim women is an expression of their religious identity born out of personal choice; and not a symbol, slogan or form of oppression. The Hijab does not prevent them from fully participating in public life as loyal and engaged citizens of Canada. The proposed bill would impact the socio-economic prospects of well-educated and qualified Muslim women who have been contributing to the Quebec society for generations.

The Canadian Council of Imams, therefore, urges the Quebec government to respect the choice of Canadian Muslim women to wear what they value as important to their identity and contribute to the society they live, work, and raise their families in. The CCI requests the CAQ to uphold the religious rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution and focus on what unites the community and not what divides it.

The CAQ government’s use of the notwithstanding clause is a tacit admission that this bill would not pass the constitutional muster. Hence, the Canadian Council of Imams, together with the Imams Council of Quebec Canada (CIQ), appeal to Canadians of all religious denominations, to denounce Bill 32 as it will threaten the freedom of religious expression in all its forms and render Quebec religious minorities, including Muslims, as second-class citizens, further entrenching divisions and threatening the social harmony in Quebec.