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Groups condemn Canada court ruling that upholds ban on religious symbols

March 1, 2024 at 7:42 pm

National Council of Canadian Muslims CEO, Stephen Brown, speak duing a press conference at the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa on September 19, 2023 [DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images]

A ruling by Quebec’s highest court upholding the law banning religious symbols to be worn by public sector employees in the workplace is “dangerous” and a “fascistic approach to human rights”, a Canadian anti-hate organisation said Friday, Anadolu Agency reports.

The secularism law, known as Bill 21, bans employees, such as teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work. Included are Muslim hijabs, Christian crosses, Sikh turbans and Jewish kippahs.

In a 200-page decision made public Thursday, the court upheld Bill 21 and also extended it to cover English school boards that had previously been exempt.

“Clearly the judges on the panel care little about the human rights of the communities primarily affected by the law who all happen to be racialised religious communities or the bigotry and racism that the law enables,” Canadians United Against Hate founder, Fareed Khan, said in a news release. “With this decision Muslims, Sikhs and Jews in the province, who wear clothing that is intrinsic to the practice of their faith, have been told that they are second class citizens in Quebec and lesser human beings because of their faith.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) vowed in a post on X Thursday to continue to vigorously oppose the law.

“We will keep fighting – including in the courts,” the NCCM said. “This is not the end. We do not accept a Quebec and a Canada where our civil liberties and religious rights are nothing more than permissions that can be removed at the whims of politicians.”

Khan also blamed the federal government of Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, for inaction against Bill 21 in a higher court when it was introduced.

“If they (Trudeau and the Liberal government) truly cared, then they would have referred the law to the Supreme Court in 2019 when Quebec implemented it regardless of political consequences,” Khan stated.​​​​​​​

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