[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Fatemeh Anvari - Bill 21

Honourable senators, as many of you are aware, last week just 15 kilometres from where I currently stand before you, a Grade 3 teacher in Chelsea, Quebec was told she can no longer be allowed to teach because of the attire she chose to wear.

Bill 21 is discriminatory and racist. Instead of ensuring the equality of all people in the province of Quebec, it creates two distinct classes: those who may pursue their career regardless of their faith and those who may not.

I understand this is a provincial law, but I cannot in good conscience as a racialized person and as a human rights advocate, remain silent while fellow Canadians are being blatantly targeted. As a representative of a community, I must be a voice for the silenced.

This secularism bill, under the guise of separating state from religion, prohibits certain persons from wearing religious symbols and therefore disproportionately affects women by limiting their sense of agency. Let me remind you that this bill was originally meant to only affect police officers, correctional services officers and judges. It was then extended to teachers. Who will be next?

We have already seen the rise of Islamophobia during the pandemic. By creating this second-class citizenship, this secularism bill normalizes the “othering” of visible minorities.

Honourable senators, the removal of Fatemeh Anvari has upended the lives of children who, until last Thursday, only saw Ms. Anvari as a teacher, regardless of her hijab. As one of these students wrote in a letter to Ms. Anvari, made publicly available:

It’s not fair that you can’t teach. I actually think your hijab is awesome and you’re the best teacher ever.

These students are now being taught that as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, she is unfit to teach. While Ms. Anvari continues to work at the school outside the classroom on a literacy project advocating for inclusion and awareness of diversity, I call upon you, my fellow parliamentarians, to remember these values as well. Thank you.