Quebec’s Bill 21 on religious symbols leads to fears of surveillance, monitoring

Written by Punita V

Published on : June 20, 2019 5:24

Days after the passing of Quebec’s Bill 21, civil liberties advocates say the bill is leaving religious minorities nervous and with many unanswered questions.

Bill 21, controversial legislation that makes it illegal for some public sector employees to work while wearing religious symbols, was passed by the Quebec legislature on Sunday night.

Part of the increased unease is a last-minute addition to the bill that “inspectors” will oversee the compliance of the new law. Elghawaby said Muslim women she’s heard from are unsure who those individuals are, and what exactly they will be doing.

“There are a lot of questions about how this bill is actually going to be implemented,” Elghawaby said.

“Sort of last minute, we heard about the idea of surveillance in workplaces and that really sent quite a chill among people,” she explained.

Quebec’s Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has told reporters that inspectors will be targeting organizations, not individual people.

“It’s really important because, you know, some organizations say we will not apply the bill,” he said, adding the inspectors will help “verify” the law is being implemented.

Because it was a last-minute amendment, only hours before the bill was adopted and hurriedly given royal assent, debate about how inspectors would operate was limited. Opposition Liberals and Quebec Solidaire promptly accused the government of creating a “secularism police.”