Bill 21 is a case of systemic racism

The CAQ government is legislating discrimination in the name of secularism
Photo: scottmontreal
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The mission of the Concertation Table against systemic racism (TCRS) is to eliminate systemic racism in Quebec. Its long-term vision is to contribute to the development of an egalitarian society, free from racism and discrimination.

This bill is a clear case of systemic discrimination

The TCRS aims to inform and mobilize the Quebec population in the fight against systemic racism, to develop a dialogue between all stakeholders involved in this struggle, as well as between civil society and public institutions, to defend rights and freedoms and to work towards real equality among all people. That is why the TCRS pronounced on Bill 21 introduced by the CAQ government.

Our position on secularism

Secularism as defined by many in the field is based on a few major principles of political organization of society that govern, among other things, the relationship between the State and religious institutions.

For the TCRS, these principles ensure that the State acts in a neutral manner towards all, not favouring or disadvantaging them according to their beliefs. However, Bill 21 does not seem to be conceived in good faith in this respect, since it weakens the Charter in order to prohibit the wearing of religious symbols in certain professions, on the one hand, and creates certain exceptions to its application, on the other hand, particularly with respect to "emblematic or toponymical features of Quebec's cultural heritage."

This project, which has the effect of disadvantaging certain categories of employment and of favouring one religion at the expense of others, is completely discriminatory. The TCRS believes that, in its application, secularism can and must counteract discrimination and racism, and not exacerbate them.

Why the TCRS opposes Bill 21

The TCRS opposes this bill because it institutionalizes discrimination against people who are in the vast majority racialized and, in addition, often women. It should be remembered that women are in the majority in education jobs covered by the Bill 21. In addition, the CAQ government expects the bill to be passed extremely rapidly, before the end of the June 2019 parliamentary session. The democratic consultation process is being sidelined, which is in and of itself a very serious concern.

For several years now, the TCRS has been observing an increase in intolerance towards religious minorities in Quebec

This bill is a clear case of systemic discrimination. By introducing an unchallengeable piece of legislation that discriminates against hiring and job retention, which violates section 10 of the Charter and is automatically and without exception applicable to all in certain professions, the CAQ government is effectively reproducing and promoting the practice of systemic discrimination and racism.

How systemic racism works, from roots to branches. (Click on the image to view in full.)

As we know, everyday discrimination and racism are systemic when supported by institutional practices that are reflected in laws, policies, rules and regulations, as well as in some media practices. This limits access to resources for racialized individuals and groups, restricts their participation in social, economic and political life, and reinforces social inequities.

Rising intolerance worldwide

Under Bill 21, the CAQ government stigmatizes religious and racialized minorities by placing them, once again, at the heart of a social debate that challenges their clothing and religious choices, thereby fueling racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Sikh sentiments and acts, and by denying many people access to employment or preventing them from thriving in their workplace, thus reinforcing the economic and social precariousness that religious minorities already experience. This is precisely how this bill fits into the pattern of systemic racism. %highlight %left Bill 21 consolidates the glass ceiling, by keeping these women in positions that fall short of their skills.

For several years now, the TCRS has been observing an increase in intolerance towards religious minorities in Quebec and in several other countries around the world. Muslim women are particularly targeted by hate speech, which is increasing in traditional media, social media, and public space. As a result, the bill, which is being framed as a tool to promote gender equality, is already having the opposite effect for these women. In addition to legitimizing discrimination in the recruitment process, Bill 21 consolidates the glass ceiling, by keeping these women in positions that fall short of their skills. The constraint placed on them will exclude many of them from the professions they have chosen, thus contributing to their continued dependence and economic insecurity.

Ultimately, the TCRS is concerned that one liberticidal legislation legitimizes another, and yet another — as was the case in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. In doing so, the government opens the door to more discrimination and racism in hiring and employment, which go well beyond the functions that are specifically targeted by the bill.

By stating that it is legitimate to be concerned about the wearing of religious symbols in certain professions, the government is insidiously condoning discriminatory and racist prejudices and doubts about the professionalism of all persons who wear a religious symbol, regardless of their occupation.

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