By Stephen Maher | MACLEAN’S | CANADA |
On June 16, after Amrit Kaur attended her graduation ceremony in Ottawa, she drove with her parents and brother back to the family home in Vaudreuil, a suburb of Montreal, and, still in her graduation dress, sat down at the dining room table to upload photos.
Kaur, 28, has just completed a bachelor of education degree at the University of Ottawa and was hoping to start teaching this fall in Quebec, where she has lived since she was five. But as Kaur uploaded pictures, she checked social media, where she learned that the National Assembly of Quebec had just passed Bill 21.
“We were all just hanging out, talking about the day and stuff. And that comes up.”
Kaur, a Sikh, wears a turban. Bill 21 means that she will not be able to teach in Quebec. The news came as a personal blow.
“You think something like this is just hate speech, or the product of it, but when it actually materializes into something, you feel racism toward yourself,” she says. “And that feeling of racism, being disenfranchised, you can hear about it, but when you feel it on yourself, there’s a sadness you can’t describe. That feeling, I don’t wish it on anyone.”
Bill 21, which was promised by Quebec Premier François Legault during the 2018 campaign, bans police, teachers and government lawyers from wearing religious symbols on the job in the name of secularism. It will mostly affect Sikhs who wear turbans, Muslims who wear hijabs and Jews who wear skull caps. Those communities have gone to court to have the law overturned.
On July 18, a Quebec judge rejected an injunction application sought by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. On July 22, Kaur was among those who stood on the steps of the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal to announce an appeal of that decision.
The legal challenges will take time. Kaur needs a job now, so she is likely to move to British Columbia. One thing she will not consider is giving up her turban.
Read the full story, ‘A sadness you can’t describe’: The high price of Quebec’s Bill 21′ (Macleans, 12 Aug 2019), here.
Quebec pushes through bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols (Asia Samachar, 17 June 2019)