Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans some public sector employees including teachers and police officers from wearing religious symbols has received mixed reviews from Canadians coast to coast and has its own critics in Quebec, not to mention the immigrant population as a whole.
The bill targets all religious symbols, but it is common knowledge that the only group it really disproportionately affects are Muslims and Sikhs.
While the secularism bill has grabbed a lot of attention, two other major pieces of legislation addressing immigration levels and the province’s taxi industry have had outsized effects on the province’s minority communities.
Last month Bill 17 was tabled, and it seeks to overhaul the taxi industry, 90 per cent of drivers happen to be immigrants.
The drivers say the Quebec bill, which abolishes a permit system, will drive many of them into bankruptcy.
Drivers who blocked downtown Montreal streets last week in protest said Bill 17 mainly affects immigrants who took out loans to finance their permits. If the bill is adopted and the permits lose their value, drivers say the compensation offered by the province will not cover their deep debts.
Many taxi drivers feel targeted by Bill 17 and Bill 21.
Another bill affecting the immigrant community was tabled in February by Jolin-Barrette. Bill 9 creates a legal framework granting the government the authority to be more selective over who receives permanent residency in Quebec.
Just as immigrants in the province were discussing the impact of these two bills, word came out that the province was throwing out 18,000 immigration applications from people around the world, including roughly 3,700 applications from people already residing in the province. These applicants have been told to reapply under a new system.
When it comes to Bill 21, the legislation allows teachers already in the school system to continue wearing religious symbols, as long as they don’t seek promotion or change school boards.
While it is apparent that a large section of Quebec residents is against the idea of seeing religious symbols and dress in public, it is the large and growing number of immigrants who are impacted, and it leaves many of them with the impression that they are second-class citizens. No one says so openly, but there is a sense that immigrants are less Canadian than the rest. -CINEWS