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Bill 21: For five cents a citizen, it’s the right thing to do, said Coun. Carra

Bill 21 has become too much about vote calculus and not enough about doing the right thing, said Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

Carra will bring forward an urgent notice of motion to Monday’s combined meeting of council, asking for up to $100,000 for a legal fund to fight Quebec’s controversial legislation. Bill 21, adopted in 2019, prohibits the wearing of religious symbols, such as hijabs and turbans by government employees in that province.

The bill made headlines again after a Quebec teacher was reassigned because she wore a hijab.

“What we’ve seen is the federal government, who should be tackling this, basically immobilized by the vote calculus,” Carra said.

“And so, like with many things in society, where other orders of government are too imbroglio’d in politics to actually do the right thing, it falls to municipalities, where the majority of Canadians live, to step up and provide leadership.”

Calgary city council passed a notice of motion back in September 2019 to formally oppose Quebec’s Bill 21.  Local interfaith groups also came together to support city council’s action.

‘Overtly racist’ bill: Mayor Jyoti Gondek

“Bill 21 is ridiculous,” said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek on Thursday.  

“What it does to people who wish to be public servants is blocking them from being their own person and doing a great job on behalf of society. It’s just wrong.”

Mayor Gondek said when she heard what Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown was doing, she wanted to be in on the legal action. She said she was disappointed the federal government hadn’t done anything on a bill that was “overtly racist.”

“If the federal government is not going to do anything, to a decision that the provincial government has enforced, without good reason, then maybe it’s time municipalities step up and send the message that we will not tolerate this in our country.”

When asked if she was veering outside of her lane, so to speak, the mayor said we have a responsibility to band together as Canadians.  At home, she pointed to a recent budget that already addressed many of Calgary’s important civic issues.

“This is an issue that affects us all,” she said.

Coun. Carra said they’d love to stay in their lane. He thinks the city should stay in their lane. Far too often things like this are downloaded to cities to handle.

“Should we stay in our lane, or should we, for five cents each, do the right thing as Canadians?” Carra said.

“If you’re not coming out on the side that we should do the right thing as Canadians, I wonder if you really believe that that’s the right thing.”

The urgent business would have to be first approved as an addition to the agenda. Then, councillors would debate the motion before the cash is approved.