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City webpage launched to aid fundraising for Bill 21 legal fight

Calgarians can now donate to the Bill 21 legal fund with the launch of a City of Calgary webpage directing people to the fundraising campaign.

The webpage was launched at 9 a.m. Thursday, the third anniversary of Bill 21’s passing in Quebec, and directs people to a GoFundMe campaign. The campaign has a goal of $100,000.

In March, Calgary’s Bill 21 Task Force recommended against using $100K from city coffers. Instead, it advised a City webpage that shows Calgary’s opposition to Bill 21, and links to private fundraising for a joint legal challenge being led by the World Sikh Organization, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Coun. Jasmine Mian, along with Couns. Raj Dhaliwal and Evan Spencer sat on the task force.

“If someone had told me 10 years ago that such a law would exist in Canada, I never would have believed it,” Mian said during a media announcement Thursday.

“After the reckonings we’ve had about equity, diversity and inclusion, it’s deeply troubling to see laws like this persist in Canada.”

Coun. Mian said the webpage gives everyday Calgarians the chance to show their support.

Coun. Dhaliwal hopes a steady flow of donations will show how much this issue means to Calgarians.

“Let’s send quite a strong message to the Quebec government that this is not acceptable in Canada, and especially in the world we live in today,” Dhaliwal said.

Bill 21, enacted in 2019, prohibits public servants from wearing religious symbols while at work. There was national attention on the issue late last year after a Quebec teacher was told she couldn’t wear a hijab at work and was dismissed.

Recalling past trauma

Terjinder Singh Sidhu, president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada said they’ve been fighting growing intolerance in Quebec for the past 10 years.

“When our community first heard of this bill, our parents and grandparents started to recall the trauma of when they faced what they faced when they first arrived in Canada,” he said.

“How many of our fathers and brothers were told to cut their hair and remove their turbans to gain employment? How could we possibly be turning the clock back now?”

The matter was heard in Quebec Superior Court, and now moves to the Quebec Court of Appeal. Sidhu expects it will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

That’s why the fundraising effort is in place.

“This is our opportunity as Calgarians to firmly take a position against laws that create a space for intolerance,” he said.

“We need to step up and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are being marginalized.

The fund currently sits at $5,610 (4 p.m. Thursday) with a $5,000 seed donation made by local businessman, Usman Jutt.

Coun. Mian said the webpage and fundraising drive was a combined effort of all organization. But it was a simple request to come together. While there were some city hours put in to get the page together, she called it a “very negligible amount of time.”

“I do think that the city has a commitment to be made in terms of anti-racism and (diversity, equity, inclusion), and to say, you know what, we are going to put this on our website, this is our values,” she said.

“So, a small amount of investment for a large impact.”