STATEMENT - Banning religious symbols puts everyone’s rights at risk

June 17, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Following the passage of Quebec’s Bill 21, entitled “An Act respecting the laicity of the State,” Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

“The Canadian Human Rights Commission is deeply disappointed by Quebec’s new law banning religious symbols for all provincial public servants in roles such as, police officers, judges, teachers and senior officials.

“As Canada’s national human rights institution, we have a responsibility to monitor and report on whether Canada is meeting its international obligations. This new law not only breaches our promise to uphold international human rights commitments, it also runs contrary to values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are enshrined in Canada’s constitution and our federal and provincial human rights laws. Ultimately, these rights and freedoms are the foundation of Canada’s free and democratic society.

“Quebec’s new law runs counter to the fundamental principles of equality, dignity and respect. There is no evidence to suggest that discrimination is necessary to protect the secularism of the state. The law targets people for their religious beliefs. It creates barriers that will limit people’s opportunities and their ability to participate fully in society. It recklessly entrenches and legitimizes religious and racial intolerance – opening the door for others to do the same.

“This law’s ban on religious expression puts everyone’s rights at risk, no matter where you live in Canada. Laws in Canada and in every province should seek to end discrimination — not promote it.”

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