Jagmeet Singh won’t fight Bill 21

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On a French-language television show, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh flatly stated that he had no interest in appealing Quebec’s controversial secularism law.

Singh was asked on “Tout le monde en parle,” a talk show that often breaks the one-million viewer mark — meaning more than 10 per cent of Quebec’s total population could be tuning in — whether he would contest Bill 21. The law prevents residents who wear religious symbols such as turbans, kippahs and hijabs, from holding public-facing government positions of authority, such as teachers, police officers or judges. “No,” the NDP leader said in response. “I said that (we) recognize Quebec’s jurisdiction in this file.”

The uncomfortable truth is that Quebec’s secularism law is popular, and Premier François Legault has urged all federal party leaders to butt out of challenging it court, saying it represents the will of the population.

Singh reiterated his personal opposition to the law but stopped short of condemning it. Even the language he used was a lot milder than the tone he’s employed in English Canada.

The show’s host, Guy A. Lepage, introduced Singh as someone who was born in Canada of Indian parents and who practices the Sikh faith, “which is why you wear a turban.” Lepage told him many Quebecers and Canadians are squarely opposed to a political leader who wears religious symbols, and he asked, what do you tell them?

Singh suggested that while he might wear a turban, he shares the same values as Quebecers: he’s in favour of abortion, women’s rights, same-sex marriage, and is someone who “fell in love” with the French language when he was a pre-teen.

“I want to be an ally for Quebec, and I can be ally for Quebec,” he said.

On Friday, a day after the “Tout le monde en parle” interview was taped in Montreal, Singh told reporters that he thought Bill 21 was “absolutely wrong.”

“I understand that there are jurisdiction questions and questions of law. Right now, this law is being challenged in court, and I support the right to do so, and that is very important,” he said on a campaign stop in Ontario.

To be fair, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh isn’t alone when it comes to condemning Bill-21. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has always maintained that his party would not intervene over Bill-21 but vowed never to introduce a similar law ever.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau too has danced around the issue leaving it to the court process in Quebec and only saying that he would “continue to make determinations around next steps. He said, “I am opposed to any law that restricts Canadians freedoms, that tells someone what they should or shouldn’t wear. I believe in defending people’s rights and I always will.”

At the end of the day, no political party can dare try to do something to scuttle a bill that they believe to be unpopular in the rest of Canada but popular in Quebec. Chances are that if a poll were to be taken, a surprising number of Canadians may actually find Bill-21 or at least parts of it quite appealing. No politician wants to go there for good reason. -CINEWS

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