Saanich council will weigh in on a controversial bill in Quebec.
Coun. Zac de Vries has filed a notice of motion that opposes Bill 21, a law that formally bans public officials such as judges, police officers, teachers and other professions from wearing religious items like hijabs, turbans, kippas, and crucifixes while on duty.
The bill has drawn public criticism from many quarters of Canadian society and politics, as well as a formal legal challenge from the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).
De Vries’ motion calls on Saanich to support “in principle” these groups in their legal challenge through letters.
The motion’s preamble says among other points that Saanich “stands up for diversity and Canadian multiculturalism and [council] bears a responsibility to stand up in defence of the Canadian multicultural mosaic.”
The motion’s preamble also notes that the “District of Saanich consists of a diverse community, many of whom wear religious symbols including the cross, Kippa, turbans, hijabs, Kippa, the cross and many others.”
It further says that the “fundamental right of religious freedom is enshrined by Canadian constitutional protections” and Saanich “stands firmly with those who support religious freedom.”
It is not unusual for council to comment on issues beyond its jurisdiction, but the practice has also received criticism. Former councillor Leif Wergeland, for example, often questioned Saanich’s decision to comment on national or international issues.