• The Low Down

Bill 21 allows ‘tyranny of the majority’

Cher M. Bussiere (Robert), M. Legault,


Now that we have a real victim in Fatemeh Anvari, I wish to re-affirm my opposition to and disgust with this unethical and discriminatory law. Although passed in 2019, I believe its subsequent ill-effects have been overshadowed and preempted by the pandemic. Nonetheless, we now have an actual instance of someone’s livelihood affected by nothing more than a headscarf.


Although I wholly support and believe in the separation of church and state, I also believe in the progressive values of diversity and inclusion, respect and tolerance, and freedom of expression. These can co-exist. The wearing of individual religious symbols such as a hijab, kippah/yarmulke, turban or kirpan is not a slippery slope leading to the imposition of Sharia or Kosher laws.


Moreover, rather than repeal this offensive law, your government is doubling down, stating that Ms. Anvari should never have been hired in the first place, while claiming that this law enjoys majority support in Québec. Even if true, this doesn’t make it just or ethical. History is rife with the evil actions of populist governments supported by the majority. The quality of a society is measured by how it treats its minorities. Our Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were specifically written to protect against this “tyranny of the majority.” The fact your government had to invoke the notwithstanding clause to trample these fundamental rights is a further indictment of this immoral law.


Nonetheless, this law’s hypocrisy and double standard are apparent, as we still have a dead Jesus hanging in our provincial legislature. “Respect my rights and culture while I disrespect yours.” If this government were truly serious, this blatant and visible expression of religious belief would also be removed. I’m sure Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the Musée de la civilisation, or the Musée de l'amérique francophone could find a suitable place to display this historically significant crucifix.


I expect this letter will be met with some measure of indignation. I’m reminded of the recent English federal debate, where the moderator made a factual reference to “Québec’s discriminatory laws.” M. Blanchet feigned great offence, protesting, “How dare you call us racist?”, (or similar words to that effect). Actions speak louder than words. The moderator made no such allusion, but “If the shoe fits…”.


Thirty years ago, the RCMP/GRC faced the challenge of adapting the uniform to accommodate the wearing of turbans by their Sikh members. Despite a variety of opposing opinions and perspectives at the time, this question resolved itself favourably, and today we don’t think twice about seeing RCMP officers wearing turbans or hijabs.


This is normal. Society is changing. Values evolve. This is progressive thinking. It is past time for Québec to repeal this misguided and unjust law. It is the right thing to do.


Veuillez agréer, M. Bussiere, l’expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs.


Bien à vous.


Stephen Smye is a resident of Masham.