Hampstead council unanimously passed a resolution stating that it denounces and will not recognize Bill 21, the proposed law that will prohibit newly hired people in positions of authority under provincial jurisdiction, as well as teachers from wearing religious symbols.
“The Town of Hampstead does not recognize Bill 21 as a valid law,” the resolution says. “We will not comply. We will not enforce discriminatory laws. The strength of a society is not evidenced by its ability to subjugate its minorities, but by its ability to embrace and protect them.”
The resolution was to have been debated at a special April 15 meeting, but was delayed as matters heated up in the aftermath of Mayor William Steinberg characterizing Bill 21 as a peaceful form of ethnic cleansing.
The resolution also recognizes that Quebec is a secular state, but contends Bill 21 contradicts the principles of a lay state, such as the religious neutrality of the State, the equality of all citizens and the freedoms of conscience and religion,
Council, including Steinberg himself, voted in favour of the resolution. Councillor Leon Elfassy also voted in favour, but said: “I have a problem with saying ‘we will not comply.’ We live in a safe and free country, and a safe and free province, and if this bill will pass in the National Assembly, I will definitely comply with the law if it passes.”
Jean-François Racine, a Bill 21 supporter who had deposited a complaint against Steinberg with the Quebec Municipal Commission regarding his Bill 21 comments, and who engaged council in a 20-minute debate earlier in the meeting, applauded Elfassy’s comment.
Interviewed following the meeting, Steinberg said that, today, no Hampstead employees would be affected by Bill 21.
“However, potentially, we could get employees that would be affected,” the Mayor added.
“Those things we have no intention of complying with, but admittedly [the resolution] is primarily symbolic as it applies to the town. But that’s not really the issue — it affects our residents, and potentially quite a bit. Not only does it affect residents in some of the jobs affected, it also affects the employment opportunities of the kids of these residents.”