A statement by Scarborough Centre MP Salma Zahid
It’s time for the federal government to join the court challenge against Bill 21
OTTAWA – The removal of a teacher from her classroom in Chelsea, Quebec for wearing a hijab is yet another example that makes clear what has been known since it was first conceived: Bill 21 is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and discriminates against religious minorities – particularly Muslim women that wear the hijab, Jewish men that wear the Kippah, and Sikh men that wear the Dastar.
That parents are having to explain to their children why their teacher has been taken from their classroom is heartbreaking. For children to have to learn at such an early age that such discrimination exists in our world, in our country, is sad. We should be teaching our children love and understanding and compassion. That our differences should be celebrated and embraced.
When I choose to begin wearing the Hijab, it garnered varying reactions. But it also sparked a lot of great conversations. People are suspicious and fearful of what they don’t know. I was asked why I began wearing it, what it means to me, if it was my choice. As people began to understand my choice, they again saw not the hijab, but the person wearing it.
I understand the arguments for secularism made by proponents of this law. But even if we accept their arguments, it is clear to me that, more than two years since its introduction, any possible benefit is grossly outweighed by the harm it is causing to society, and to minority groups already marginalized.
Rather than breaking down the differences between different groups, it is calling attention to them. It is telling certain groups they are less than, that they aren’t welcome unless they suppress their own choice and beliefs and conform.
This cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. To date, the challenge has come from civil society. But as the party that brought the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canada, as a government that champions human rights around the world, we cannot allow the weight of this fight to be carried by civil society alone.
It is time for the Government of Canada to join the legal challenge filed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It is time for the government to intervene.
In 2015, we told the country that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” It’s time to live up to that promise.