Quebec’s so-called “secularism” law may shatter more than just the civil rights of Canadians practicing their faith. It appears to have also utterly destroyed the shallow image of progressive politics put forward by almost every single federal leader going into the 2019 election.
For those living outside of la belle province, Quebec’s secularism law is controversial but very popular, and in effect, it bans police officers, judges, teachers, daycare workers, and many others from wearing items like kippas, hijabs, turbans, and crucifixes while working.
In early July, the bill’s potential impact and moral failures became clear. The province’s education minister proudly stood by Malala Yousafzai, an individual bravely fighting for the right of young, mostly Muslim girls to go to school, but only for the positive attention it would bring him.
He did so while his very own government did everything in their power to ensure individuals like Malala would be unable to teach in that same school system.
Of course, the impact was not just on Twitter or based on moral arguments.
The effects of the bill have been felt already in Quebec with some individuals already being denied jobs as a result of their decision to continue practicing their faith openly, forcing them to move.
As a result, the bill which invoked the notwithstanding clause in its implementation has been challenged in court.
As the election begins and the effects of the controversial and discriminatory bill ripples through Quebec, and by extension becomes recognized in the rest of Canada, the four federal leaders currently slated to appear in the official debates have said they disagree with the bill on principle.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in an interview with Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj, “I disagree with it. A government shouldn’t be telling anyone what they should and shouldn’t wear in a free society… I have been very clear in a free society you cannot legitimize discrimination based on their religion.”
Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer has said his party will “always stand up for the rights of Canadians and the rights for expression and the rights of freedom of religion,” while also noting that they would never consider such a bill at the federal level.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stated, “religious intolerance of this kind has no place in our society,” in direct reference to Bill 21.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in an MTL blog interview has said, “I think society should go where we support and promote Francophonie through encouraging and loving it, as opposed to dividing people, pitting people against each other. That’s not going to help defend and create a better society.”
While the four largest federal parties disagree with Bill 21, they will be heeding the words of Quebec Premier François Legault and doing absolutely nothing to stop the removal of rights in a province that represents a quarter of all Canadians.
Trudeau and Scheer have both said they would not intervene in the matter, Elizabeth May’s Green Party has told its candidates to tread carefully, while Singh has said his mere presence in the race was a response to the controversial bill.
That really says something about the state of progressive politics in 2019.
Here we have individuals who wholeheartedly believe rights are being taken away and say so word for word in their campaign speeches, yet when the time for action comes, they refuse to lift a finger, preferring the status quo where seats can be won in Quebec, over a society built on equal rights under the Charter.
When the Liberals brandish the importance of a gender-balanced cabinet in 2015, you would think they would understand the problems of religious exclusion in 2019.
When the Conservatives campaign against a dogmatic approach to charity funding which requires many faith-based groups to give up their ideals in order to receive cash, you would think they would understand the problems of religious exclusion.
While the Greens state that they ensure no candidate with anti-abortion views make it into their party due to their dedication to women’s rights, you would think they would take the same view towards the exclusion of religious rights.
When Singh himself could suffer as a result of the Quebec bill, you would think he would act.
Yet none did.
Not even so much as a willingness to join the court challenge against the bill.
The truth is, these politicians understand that fundamental rights are being taken away.
They just care more about their chance of winning a few seats and think you are dumb enough to be taken along on their moral but otherwise empty crusade. That should disgust every voter.