1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 13

Thursday, December 16, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is also to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator, back in May 2019 you spoke so passionately about your strong opposition to Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State. Senator Omidvar also covered it this morning. At that time, you said, “Bill 21 infringes on the fundamental rights of all citizens who choose to publicly express their religious beliefs.”

Although the bill applies to many religious minorities, including practising Jews and Sikhs, its main focus is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab or veil. Senator, at that time you made me proud that you were one of my colleagues.

You said to Senator Omidvar that the Prime Minister will intervene at the right time. Senator, we know there is an increase in Islamophobia across Canada. We know that the Muslim community is in fear. We know that the Muslim community wants the Prime Minister to take action as he did in 2015. When will the Prime Minister stand up for the Muslim community whose rights are being eroded in Quebec?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The Government of Canada is very concerned, as are all Canadians, with the rise of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of unacceptable discrimination, prejudice and hatred in this country.

To be clear, senator, what I said was that the Prime Minister has made it clear that he is keeping the door open to possibly intervening, if and when it is deemed appropriate. I want the record to be clear about that.

With regard to the situation you describe, again, the government’s position is that no one should be denied the right to work simply because of what they wear or their religious beliefs. It is gratifying to see the community of Chelsea come together to support the teacher and to stand up for their neighbour. That said, the government is following this situation — which is playing out not only in the courts in Quebec but also in Quebec society and, indeed, beyond — and has not closed the door to intervening or making representations on this matter in the future.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired.