Ottawa, Ontario. May 7, 2019 – The Federation of Black Canadians (FBC) calls for the Government of Quebec to hold public consultations to consider alternatives to achieve the stated aims of Bill 21, the Act respecting the laicity of the State. Bill 21 proposes to demonstrate the secularity of the state by prohibiting certain government workers from wearing religious symbols while doing their jobs.
Bill 21 explicitly overrules Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, by doing so, supports the possible violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In its current state, the Bill is likely to have a disproportionately negative affect on Muslim Canadians, and in particular Muslim women, many of whom are people of African descent.
In its 2017 Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the United Nations stated that:
Despite the reputation for promoting multiculturalism and diversity and the positive measures taken by the national and provincial governments, the Working Group is deeply concerned by the structural racism that lies at the core of many Canadian institutions and the systemic anti-Black racism that continues to have a negative impact on the human rights situation of African Canadians.
Bill 21, will further burden Black Muslim Canadians who already face the impacts of daily systemic anti-Black racism cited in the United Nation’s report.
The FBC understands that ensuring both the reality and perception of the separation of church and state is a key principle for the Government of Quebec. However, the FBC calls on the Government to hold public consultations to consider other options to achieve this aim that will not negatively impact Quebec’s religious minorities.
In support of the UN Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the FBC will continue working with Black Canadians to advocate for the structural changes needed to prevent discrimination based on anti-Black racism. The aim is to give all Black Canadians the opportunity to fulfill their potential – which will benefit Quebec’s economy, all Quebecers and all Canadians.