A task force will be led by three Calgary city councillors to provide guidance on next steps for the city to support a legal challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21.
The motion came from six councillors and the mayor and outlined how they would approach the Quebec legislation. As LiveWire Calgary was first to report, the notice of motion didn’t include a direct ask for cash to bolster the legal fund established to fight the bill. When initially brought forward, a $100,000 amount was talked about for the legal fund.
The motion was approved 10-5.
The notice of motion once again condemned Bill 21 and endorsed the current legal challenge undertaken by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the World Sikh Organization of Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Couns. Jasmine Mian, Raj Dhaliwal and Evan Spencer will spearhead a taskforce to engage local legal and religious groups. That group would look at what could be done to help the legal challenge or to help local inclusivity initiatives.
They would also look at how groups could raise funds on behalf of citizens and corporations. It also could guide how the City of Calgary could provide matching funds this work. Finally, the task force will report back at the end of Q1. At that point, Calgary could consider allocating legal funding.
“We can say that this is a Quebec problem and choose to look away, but protecting fundamental rights is all of our responsibility,” said Coun. Mian.
“On a personal level, the fact that this law exists in our country makes me sick. I think about what this law would mean for my own Muslim family. I think about what it means for young children in Quebec, who wanted to grow up to be teachers, lawyers, firefighters and judges.”
Feds should do something about it: Coun. Dan McLean
Coun. Dan McLean said the city shouldn’t be getting involved in this. Especially if it includes taxpayer dollars.
“That’s a federal issue. Trudeau should have stood up and that’s his job,” McLean said.
“I think we’ve picked the wrong fight. And I think we’ve all got hundreds of responses from residents saying no to this, no to using taxpayer dollars.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek once again reiterated that public money wasn’t being immediately sought. Still, councillors didn’t want the prospect of that cash ever being used.
“This bill is awful,” said Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp.
“I will admit the one thing that I have a problem with is number three and the reason is because the task force that is to be created, if this is passed, is to come back to council. And then we’re having this conversation again about public funding.”
Coun. Courtney Walcott said that just last year the city took a stand against racism. This motion was an opportunity to make progress on that.
“This is action, and this is how you begin the process of battling systemic discrimination,” he said.
Coun. Jennifer Wyness asked about the prior legal challenge and the notwithstanding clause being used to establish the bill.
“I feel like we’re trying to use a squirt gun on a raging fire,” Wyness said.
She said we should be looking at how we can fix race problems locally before we worry about what’s going on across the country.
Coun. Raj Dhaliwal compared this legislation to that of Canada’s Indian Act. He said we’ve seen what happens when we try to eliminate someone’s identity.
“We have an opportunity to stand up as Calgarians rather than apologizing 30 years in the future,” he said.