…but as usual, it is only Muslims who are bitching and moaning about it. Three years after Quebec’s secularism law — commonly known as Bill 21 — was adopted, Muslims in the province are feeling increasingly alienated and hopeless.
CBC “Religious minority communities are encountering — at levels that are disturbing — a reflection of disdain, hate, mistrust and aggression,” Miriam Taylor, lead researcher and the director of publications and partnerships at the Association for Canadian Studies, told CBC in an interview. “We even saw threats and physical violence,” Taylor said.
Bill 21, which passed in 2019, bars public school teachers, police officers, judges and government lawyers, among other civil servants in positions of authority, from wearing religious symbols — such as hijabs, crucifixes or turbans — while at work.
Taylor and her colleagues at the association worked with polling firm Leger to gather a unique portrait of attitudes toward Bill 21 in Quebec. The association surveyed members of certain religious minority communities including 632 Muslims, 165 Jews and 56 Sikhs.
Although all three religious minority groups surveyed said they’ve experienced negative impacts due to Bill 21, the effects are being most acutely felt by Muslims and, in particular, Muslim women.
“We saw severe social stigmatization of Muslim women, marginalization of Muslim women and very disturbing declines in their sense of well-being, their ability to fulfil their aspirations, sense of safety, but also hope for the future,” Taylor said.
Of the Muslim women surveyed, 78% said their feeling of being accepted as a full-fledged member of Quebec society had worsened over the last three years. 53% per cent said they’d heard prejudicial remarks about Muslims from family, friends or colleagues.
People surveyed were given the opportunity to share examples of comments they’d heard or behaviours they’d experienced:
One reported hearing: ”These Muslim women with rags on their heads, if they are not able to integrate, let them return to their country.”
47% of Muslim women said they’d been treated unfairly by a person in a position of authority.
One person reported being called a “dirty immigrant” by a police officer in Quebec City. Another reported that a teacher told disparaging anecdotes about Islam in class.
Two thirds of Muslim women said they’d been a victim of and/or a witness to a hate crime. Seventy-three per cent said their feeling of being safe in public had worsened.
People surveyed offered examples ranging from racist (what “race” is Islam?) remarks to death threats, having hijabs ripped off and being spat on. One person reported that a man deliberately tried to run over them and their three-year-old daughter with a pickup truck.
A majority of Muslims also reported feeling less hopeful, less free to express themselves in public and less likely to participate in social and political life. Taylor said the response she found most upsetting was that 83 per cent of Muslim women surveyed said their confidence in their children’s future had worsened since Bill 21 passed.
Taylor believes Bill 21 alone isn’t responsible for the feelings of alienation and insecurity Quebec Muslims and feel. She said prejudicial attitudes have been gestating in Quebec for nearly 20 years, when the debate over so-called “reasonable accommodations” for religious minorities first took hold.