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Quebec Court of Appeal Decision on Bill 21: WSO Expresses Disappointment

March 1, 2024 | By

Ottawa – The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec largely upholding Bill 21, Quebec’s controversial secularism law. The WSO maintains that Bill 21 is a direct attack on religious freedom and will continue to fight this unjust law.

The WSO and Quebec educator Amrit Kaur were appellants in this case. Amrit Kaur, a past WSO Board member who is a practicing Sikh and wears a dastaar (turban) as a part of her beliefs, was forced to leave Quebec in order to pursue her profession. The WSO and Amrit Kaur were represented by Léon Moubayed and Faiz Lalani from Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.

Bill 21 prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols or articles of faith such as dastaars (turbans) , hijabs, and kippahs. This law disproportionately targets Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, and other minorities, effectively excluding them from key professions like teaching, law enforcement, and other public service roles.

The implications of Bill 21 extend far beyond just these professions. Sikh Quebecers who wear dastaars (turbans) have reported increased hostility and discrimination in all facets of their lives. The decision to uphold this legislation not only undermines fundamental human rights and the principle of freedom of religion but also sets a troubling precedent for the treatment of minority communities across the country.

WSO President for Quebec Harginder Kaur said today,

“Today’s decision is deeply disappointing. Bill 21 represents institutionalized discrimination against people who wear articles of faith. The law targets and disproportionately affects visible minority communities such as Sikhs in Quebec, in addition to forcing them to choose between their faith and their livelihood.

The WSO legal team is reviewing the judgment and we are committed to pursuing all avenues to challenge this law including by appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a fight for fundamental human rights and we will continue until all Quebecers are treated equally and free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination.”

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