Toronto Council Supports Legal Fight Against Bill 21

Toronto joins Brampton and other municipalities in supporting morally and financially a challenge to the Quebec law which prohibits a teacher wearing the hijab from her grade 3 class.

City Council approved by a 25-0 vote a motion by Mayor John Tory which said: and maintain.

He calls on other Canadian municipalities “to assert their opposition to Bill 21 and provide financial contributions to support the legal challenge” and pledges $ 100,000 from Toronto for the legal fight against the controversial law.

Earlier, Tory had tweeted, “I’m on the side of the Mayor of Brampton (Patrick) Brown and Brampton City Council,” who also condemned Bill 21 and pledged $ 100,000 for the legal fight in the event. ‘a special meeting on Wednesday.

The Toronto council has twice criticized the Quebec law on secularism adopted in 2019, but this is the first time that it has committed to paying money to try to have it abolished.

Pressure on the Quebec government to repeal the law intensified after the Western Quebec School Board was forced to transfer Muslim teacher Fatemeh Anvari, who wears a hijab, out of her Chelsea classroom under provincial law .

“I don’t think it’s a Quebec problem – it’s not a local problem there. It’s a national problem and it affects the rights of all Canadians, ”Tory told City Council via a video from his office.

Later Thursday, Markham joined the cause, with Mayor Frank Scarpitti pledging $ 10,000 in efforts to overturn Bill 21 and calling the treatment of the Quebec teacher “a shame and a flagrant violation of human rights. the person”.

Federal leaders have mostly tiptoed around the politically sensitive law that is popular among residents of Quebec. Brown told his council colleagues that cities must step up and stand up for human rights.

If “religious freedom is diminished and you can fire someone on the basis of wearing a turban, hijab or cross, it will be an incredible decrease in a fundamental principle of this country”, Brown said.

“It affects our municipal interest, and it affects our city where we are proud to be a mosaic.”

Brown told Star’s Noor Javed that the groups leading the legal fight – the World Organization of Sikhs, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association – have raised around $ 1.1 million and are in need of ‘about $ 3 million.

“Our hope is to level the playing field,” Brown told The Star. “It’s not a fair fight, when you have racialized communities raising funds from the community to defend the charter while you have the government of Quebec with unlimited legal resources…

“If the Government of Canada does not stand up against Bill 21, then I think Canada’s major cities can rise to the occasion.

Quebec Premier François Legault firmly defended the law after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was not ruling out intervening against it. Legault criticized the school board for hiring a teacher wearing the hijab.

“The polls show that a majority of Quebecers are for the law,” said Legault.

David Rider is the Star’s Town Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering town hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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