Pardeep Nagra: An Open Letter To Premier Legault Regarding Bill 21
"Shame on you. Quebecers and Canadians deserve and expect better."
December 17, 2021 | 3 min. read | Opinion
Dear Premier Legault,
I don't know yet, if you, and your fellow Quebec members, realize the absurdity and discriminatory impact of your Bill 21. The continued reality and negative impact on public servants, the public, and, in the most recent case, students cannot go both unnoticed and unaddressed.
You are conflating and confusing a religious symbol versus a tenet of faith. You are misapplying the religious neutrality principle and your flawed interpretation of secularism is discriminatory to its core.
I will be the first one in line to support the separation of church and state in Canada. Simply put, the state shall not establish a religion or govern through religion. Nowhere does secularism strive to be discriminatory in the way you have enacted Bill 21.
In fact, if you want to be proud of secularism in Quebec, you should be proud of one that enables cooperation with believers, a secularism that at its core has neutrality (of the state or non-sectarian institution) on issues of religion as opposed to total opposition of religion in the public square, as a whole. Such is the discriminatory secularism you are currently touting and flaunting.
Shame on you. Quebecers and Canadians deserve and expect better.
You have created a two-tier society in Quebec for jobs and opportunities based on a discriminatory bill. Public service employment is not accessible for one segment of your society because of your Bill 21 law.
It is illogical to think that I, as a Canadian who wears a Turban, do not have the same right to work in any public sector position in Quebec as I do in any other province in the same country.
It is illogical to think I can work in any other profession in Quebec except for those that serve the public with my articles of faith, including my Turban.
It is illogical that the institution that is discriminating against me is the very one that is obligated to protect me and my rights.
It is illogical that if I was a teacher teaching prior to Bill 21 that I can still teach with a Turban on and a new fellow teacher with a Turban cannot.
It is illogical that I can be present in public with my turban but can't serve the public with my turban.
Bill 21 is illogical.
The concept of separation of church and state means only one thing, that is, The government in Quebec shall not establish a religion. A corollary is that the Quebec Government, through its school boards and its schools and classrooms, will not endorse or aid any religion, nor would it hinder any religion either, although it currently is.
It means that the resources and might of the Quebec government are not to be used in matters of religion. It emphatically does not mean that religious people will not enter education, nor that educators would have no religion. It does not mean that educators will not discuss religious matters or that laws or educational issues will not be talked about in religious communities such as Churches, Synagogues, Mandirs, Gurdwaras, Mosques, or Temples and circled back in discussion within educational settings.
Wearing articles of faith is part of the practice of adherence to a faith, they are not symbols, they are tenants of faith. One can't ask me to be a turban-wearing Sikh in public but not when holding a public sector or institutional job or position. That is absurdity at its peak, racism at its finest, and discrimination at its truth.
It should be your privilege and our honour for Quebec to have a Turban-wearing police officer, bus driver, judge, teacher, or even Premier.
No, Premier Legault, the law is not reasonable and balanced as you have claimed and professed, it is discriminatory and unfair, and it’s time for the Government of Quebec to stop discriminating against its own people and repeal and remove Bill 21.
Thank you and take care,
Executive Director, SHMC
Pardeep Nagra is a father of two and engages in various community, charitable and humanitarian activities. He is a collector and historian and serves as the Executive Director of the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada, and as a trustee on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Currently, he works full-time with Canada's largest school board as Manager of Employment Equity.
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