EDITORIAL – Here’s one City council that won’t stay silent on Bill 21

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 opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (7861 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on EDITORIAL – Here’s one City council that won’t stay silent on Bill 21

  1. Good for Quebec. Everyone should have the right to not be confronted by religious dress in secular government offices and especially in schools. Why must we be so politically correct so as to not offend anyone who wishes to change what Canada has worked to achieve, separation from church and state. Everyone has the right to wear their religious dress, but they also have the right to choose a profession in the private sector instead of a government that is supposed to be free from religion.

    • It is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of expression of belief. To me there is a fundamental difference between the two and I don’t see it as confrontational at all if it is in full display out in the public realm. Quebec has a “white and Christian” existential problem and it needs to grow-up and accept diversity.

  2. Tony Brumell // October 24, 2019 at 10:19 AM // Reply

    I do object to bill 21. But to call it racist is not correct Neither culture nor Religion equates to race .That being said I believe that bill 21 is not constitutional and must be stopped before it crosses the country..
    On the other hand I think that most Canadians believe in secular government.Of course this means that church and state must be kept separate. This raises the spectre of factions arising within government .In particular within the house of commons during debate and question period and during votes . I would be concerned that the wearing of ANY and ALL religious symbols While not banned by the constitution should be disallowed in the house. It is similar to me walking into the house with a ” Stop the pipeline” placard. .it would be meant to change upcoming votes on oil. This would not be allowed.So too with religious placards.The wearing of such regalia could sway the vote if a christian MP was opposed to a non christian motion.. Thus allowing religious or non secular idiologies to influence the governing of the country .Factions could and almost certainly would form which would be the end of the freedoms we have all worked toward over the last 150 plus years. This would be enforced only within the house to maintain objectivity in the governing bodies of the country.

  3. Well done Kelowna.

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