NW Week

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The mayors’ anti-Bill 21 campaign is already backfiring

mayors' anti-Bill 21 campaign

Key Takeaways:

  • This well-meaning movement immediately reminded me of the “lovefest” or “unity rally” held three days before the 1995 referendum.

Mayors and city councils outside Quebec are condemning Bill 21 and pledging up to $100,000 to support the groups or individuals challenging the law in court, beginning in Brampton, Ont. and spreading like wildfire.

This well-intended movement immediately reminded me of the “lovefest” or “unity rally” held three days before the 1995 referendum in Montreal, where tens of thousands of Canadians from all regions gathered to express their love for Quebec.

Not only did the expenses for the rally’s organization violate Quebec’s referendum law, but the rally itself, by all accounts, aided the Yes camp rather than the No.

To put it another way, the rally backfired. Unfortunately, the same thing is happening with the mayoral campaigns. I don’t doubt that the mayors and councilors believe they are doing something beneficial by promoting religious freedom.

But, believe me, as someone fighting Bill 21 from within Quebec, this is of no help.

city councils outside Quebec; Image from Montreal gazette News

If this debate becomes a Quebec vs. ROC problem, Quebecers will rally behind their government, making it even more difficult for Bill 21 opponents in Quebec to be heard.

The mayor makes an excellent point. As citizens, mayors Patrick Brown (Brampton), John Tory (Toronto), and Jyoti Gondek (Calgary) have every right to oppose Bill 21. Is it, however, part of their responsibilities to spend municipal funds to challenge another province’s law?

The Municipal Act of Ontario states that “The Province of Ontario creates municipalities to be responsible and accountable governments concerning matters within their jurisdiction, and each municipality is given powers and duties under this Act and many other Acts to provide good government concerning those matters.” “About matters within their jurisdiction,” I emphasize. Isn’t this self-explanatory?

Assume that having more resources helps the opponents win their case in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. Is anyone expecting the Quebec government to back down for a second?

Indeed not if it is perceived that the constitutional victory was made possible by the financial resources of the rest of Canada. We would then be in a legal-political impasse with no way of knowing what would happen.

So, what could mayors do instead of jumping on the Brown bandwagon?

They should 1st discuss the matter with their Quebec colleagues. Second, as citizens, they should write to the prime minister and request that Canada intervenes in the case currently back the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Source: Montreal gazette News

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