Kingston pledges $10,000 to fight Quebec's Bill 21

Kingston City Council has committed to putting forth $10,000 from the Working Fund Reserve to assist in the legal challenge of Quebec's Bill 21.

The city joins a number of municipalities who have responded to a call to action put forth by Brampton mayor Patrick Brown, including Ajax, London, and Winnipeg. 

Other cities have condemned the law, but not offered monetary support to the legal challenge.

Bill 21 restricts public servants in "positions of authority" from wearing religious symbols while on duty.

Advocates against this bill say although it broadly discusses religion, it is a clear attack on visible minorities and in December was responsible for a teacher in western Quebec being reassigned from her classroom due to her hijab. 

Delegates from the community shared their firsthand experiences with racism and xenophobia, and urged council to support the motion as a strong example of condemnation.

Sabena Islam from the Islamic Society of Kingston pointed out that on Saturday we reached the one year mark of the senseless terrorist attack at a Quebec City mosque which saw 6 people killed. 

Islam told council that allowing things like Bill 21 to exist helps racist and Islamophobic ideologies survive. 

"The violence that led to those murders, and the murders of my family members in London this summer, is not bred in a vacuum," Islam said.

"It grows and festers when the sentiments which lead to it are normalized...  Bill 21 others racialized and marginalized communities sending a clear message, not just a dog whistle, that hate and discrimination are acceptable, tolerated and encouraged by those in a position of authority."

Islam and other delegates say although this is focused on Quebec's law, Bill 21 is not a localized issue and the sentiments it allows to exist are bound to spread, and have been shown to spread.

Although councillors all expressed their support for the Muslim community and condemned Bill 21, a monetary donation to the legal challenge became a point of contention. 

Councillor Robert Kiley said following the heated debate that council may look back on the discussion as "the lowest point of this term", calling the issue at hand one of the most significant issues to come in front of council.

Several councillors contested the idea of using taxpayer money in the legal fight against Bill 21, but added that they would donate $800 of their own money to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, urging other councillors to follow suit. 

Despite challenging the idea of using city funds towards this issue, Councillor Chapelle later proposed an amendment to the motion that would see the allotted amount increased from $10,000 to $50,000, but that was voted down.

Following questioning from other councillors, Chapelle admitted that he didn't support a $50,000 tax on residents.

After unanimous approval, Kingston will now provide $10,000 to the legal fund, and will also look to adopt the National Council of Canadian Muslims' (NCCM) municipal recommendations to address Islamophobia.

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative.

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  • Dinah Jansen
    published this page in News 2022-02-02 17:47:26 -0500