Students and instructors disappointed in Quebec’s recent ban on religious symbols

Bill 21 has been referred to as condoning racism

Jashan Singh (right) sits with friends at Langara College. Singh believes Bill 21 is 'not fair.' Photo By Kristen Holliday.
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Reported By Kristen Holliday

Jashan Singh believes that in Canada, you shouldn’t have to choose between your job and your religion.

A recent Quebec law has the fourth-year Langara business administration student reflecting on the impact of intolerance on people who put down roots in Canada, thinking the country values multiculturalism.

“You came here, you are working so hard, and contributing to the economy,” Singh said. “In the end, what are we going to get? A restriction on our religion? That’s not fair.”

A bill becomes a law

Bill 21 was passed by Quebec’s provincial government in June 2019 which bans public workers, such as teachers, police officers and lawyers, from wearing religious symbols. These include turbans, kippahs and crosses. While providing or receiving some public services it is forbidden to wear anything covering the face.

Coalition Avenir Québec says this bill protects state secularism, but Ranil Prasad, a campaign manager for the BC Humanist Association, disputes that claim. The association of atheists and agnostics believe compassion and morality are possible without religion.

Prasad spoke about the bill at a UBC event, which was hosted by the Hillel Jewish Students’ Association and the Kazakh Student Association on Oct. 30. He said even in a secular state everyone should be heard.

“This doesn’t mean excluding people based on how they look from society, which is what Bill 21 does,” Prasad said.

Lack of outcry is ‘terrible’

Langara Canadian studies instructor Lee Blanding believes Bill 21 is an attack on religious communities. He has friends in the Jewish community who are impacted by the bill and thinks it’s “terrible” Canadians haven’t done more to protest.

“It puts the lie to this idea that we’re a multicultural country in an ideological sense,” Blanding said.

Sociology instructor Indira-Natasha Prahst, who teaches a racism and ethnic relations course at Langara, said the students in her class waited for federal leaders to react with a plan to tackle this during the election and were disappointed with silence.

“It leads to a serious question and that is, are we condoning this act of racism,” Prahst said.

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