An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
KELOWNA CITY COUNCIL made a gutsy decision this week to which other City councils — not to mention federal politicians — should pay attention.
The council unanimously passed a motion condemning Bill 21, the Quebec law that bans the wearing of hijabs, turbans and other religious symbols by provincial employees such as teachers and police officers.
Many will say it’s a toothless decision and it is. Obviously, Kelowna council has no authority over anything in Quebec.
They’ll say City councils should stick to matters within their own jurisdiction and not waste time on issues beyond their control.
But certain things require local politicians to speak up. Being a mayor or City councillor isn’t all about potholes and sewer lines and zoning bylaws. Municipal politicians have brains and hearts and they’re allowed to use them when they see something happening that’s wrong.
And Bill 21 is wrong — it’s discriminatory and surely unconstitutional. As Coun. Mohini Singh said in proposing her council’s motion of censure against the bill, “this is a nasty, mean spirited, demeaning, racist law.”
City councils in Calgary, Montreal, Victoria, Kitchener, Edmonton and Brampton have also condemned Bill 21.
Quebec, of course, isn’t likely to even acknowledge such critics let alone change direction.
Unless, of course, voices are raised to such volume that a groundswell rises from within the province.
Bill 21 was an occasional topic during the just-concluded federal campaign. All non-Quebec-centered party leaders including Jagmeet Singh tut-tutted about it but refused to say they’d intervene if they formed government.
The reason, of course, is that the bill, unfortunately, is highly popular in Quebec. But somebody has to call out the bill, so bravo to those few City councils who’ve done it. When something isn’t right, somebody has to say so.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.