The Dangers of Bill 21

2019-05-24

Last month I made some remarks about Bill 21 which seemed to touch a nerve. Calls for me to apologize, for words twisted totally out of context, came from the Prime Minister, the Premier and all the way down to an insignificant small-town councillor. However, I also got hundreds of messages of support from Hampstead residents and, indeed, from all across Montreal and beyond. Your message was “Don’t apologize. You told the truth.” I thank you for your support and words of encouragement.

I stopped giving interviews within a week so that the debate would have to shift from Bill Steinberg to Bill 21 and that is exactly what happened. I hope that my modest contribution raised awareness of the real damage Bill 21 will do.

Bill 21 will prevent visible religious minorities from holding many jobs, such as teachers, prosecutors, judges, prison guards and even the Speaker of the National Assembly (an elected position). Even though there will be limited grandfathering, the children of these minorities will not have access to many positions in our society, if they wish to respect their religious convictions. The result will be families leaving Quebec and these families will include practicing members of other essential professions, such as nurses and doctors. As for people thinking of immigrating to Quebec, they will choose places where there is full and fair access to employment in all fields. We need these people. We have shortages of teachers, nurses, doctors and more. With Bill 21 it will get worse, much worse.

Make no mistake. It is not only visible religious minorities that we will lose. Once Bill 21 becomes law, Quebec will no longer be a liberal democracy – one that guarantees fundamental freedoms with a constitution (in our case the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Human Rights and Freedoms). Many other minorities will leave or not come, realizing that if some basic rights can be removed with the stroke of a pen, other rights can just as easily be removed. Quebec will become the only jurisdiction in North America that will not be a liberal democracy, one where tyranny of the majority over minorities is not restricted by a constitution. This is scary. Quebecers need to wake up and realize the damage that will be done both to our civil liberties and also to our economy if Bill 21 becomes law.

Bill 21 is a threat to all Canadians

While the “Nothwithstanding” clause has been used in the past by some provinces, it has never been used to restrict religious freedom. Once this precedent is set, other provinces will be emboldened to pass similar laws violating minority rights. Is this the Canada we want to live in? Any attack on the fundamental rights guaranteed in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be fought as forcefully as possible by all Canadians. Neither I nor the Town of Hampstead will comply with this law.

Canada has the “power of disallowance” which allows it to override any provincial law within one year of it’s coming into effect but it hasn’t been used since 1943. Will our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau have the political courage to do this? Somehow, I think his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau would not have hesitated to do so.

If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead