Mississauga mayor, councillors say municipality should stay out of Quebec’s Bill 21 business

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Published January 14, 2022 at 4:28 pm

Mississauga from City Hall

A number of Canadian municipalities have followed Brampton’s lead in donating dollars to help pay for a legal challenge against Quebec’s controversial Bill 21, but don’t expect Mississauga to follow suit.

Discussing the matter at this week’s meeting of Mississauga General Committee, Mayor Bonnie Crombie and councillors spoke out strongly against using property tax dollars here to help finance a legal fight in another province.

“I personally condemn Bill 21. It’s discriminatory, infringing on the civil and human rights of individuals in Quebec,” Crombie told councillors, adding, “I think we all agree it’s reprehensible.

“But my personal view is that we shouldn’t use property tax dollars to fight against another level of government in another province.” 

Crombie suggested strong opposition to the controversial bill should come from Canadian parliament–both government and opposition members supporting the challenge of Bill 21 once it rises to the level of the Supreme Court.

She said the notion of municipalities across Canada becoming involved in the affairs of Quebec is a dicey situation.

However, Crombie added, she’s been approached by religious groups across the city and she said she’d support helping them raise money for the fight. 

“My issue is we are in an operational deficit in the city. We don’t have the money laying around to support a legal challenge in another province,” the mayor said.

Bill 21 was adopted in June 2019 and prohibits public workers in Quebec from wearing any religious symbols while on the job. 

Debate on and pushback against the law were only brought to the forefront last month after a teacher in Quebec was reassigned for wearing her hijab in class.

Subsequently, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who’s said he views Bill 21 as an attack on “the Canadian way,” has tried to rally Canadian municipalities around the cause. 

He wants them to follow Brampton’s lead. City council there  voted last month to contribute $100,000 to three organizations challenging the controversial Quebec law. 

Brown has called on the mayors of 100 Canadian municipalities to donate to the legal fight, which led to big Canadian cities like Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg passing motions pledging their support to fight a bill outside their borders. 

Mississauga Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish shared Crombie’s concerns about getting involved in what could quickly become a political mess.

“It’s extremely unusual for cities to interfere in another province’s court of appeal,” she said. “This isn’t a Supreme Court hearing. I would guess that’s why the feds are staying out of this right now. If and when it gets to the Supreme Court, (it would be) more appropriate to start looking for broader support across the country and for the feds to get more interested in it.” 

The lawsuit against Bill 21 is being led by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the World Sikh Organization of Canada, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that he is against Bill 21 and that the federal government had not ruled out intervening in the case.

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