As Canadians, we have a fundamental obligation to speak out against injustice, especially when the rights of minority groups in Canada are at stake. That is why I condemn Quebec’s Bill 21 and encourage other public figures to add their voices. Bill 21 bans public-sector employees – including teachers, police officers and judges – from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs, kippahs, crosses and turbans, while at work.
The fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms include freedom of conscience and religion; as well as freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
No person should be forced to compromise religious freedoms in order to secure employment. I am a member of a Mennonite church. Some members of that faith community choose to wear head coverings as an expression of their faith. If these individuals lived in Quebec, they would be denied access to public-sector employment. The same would be true for many other Markham-Stouffville constituents who choose to practice their faith with a visible symbol.
I decided to post a statement on this issue because several constituents have asked for my position and I do not hesitate to state it publicly. I will be speaking at several places of worship in the coming weeks and I will reiterate my commitment to people of faith in my community.
I understand that some matters are the sole jurisdiction of provinces. This is not one of them. When the very principles of what makes Canada a tolerant, inclusive and culturally diverse country are in jeopardy, I believe that all of us have a duty to speak out. I applaud the efforts of civil liberties groups to challenge this bill in court and fight to protect the rights and freedoms of all Canadians, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
In choosing to run as an independent candidate, I promised my constituents that I would speak the truth to help build a better Canada. Treating each other with respect and upholding the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter are central to who we are as Canadians. Bill 21, which undermines the principle of respect and violates religious freedom, should be revoked.