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The views expressed by speakers in Humanist Canada webinars are their own and are not endorsed by Humanist Canada. We aim to provide a platform for a wide range of topics and perspectives, including those of scholars, activists, industry experts, civil servants, and journalists.

Webinar Series 2020: Bill 21 – Part 1 of 4

Bill 21: Understanding the different sides of the tension

In March of 2019, the government of Quebec premier François Legault, the founding leader of the centre-right Coalition Action Démocratique (CAQ), passed “An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State”, also known as Bill 21.

Bill 21 prohibits certain public servants in positions of authority, including judges, police officers, government lawyers, principals and vice-principals, as well as elementary and high school teachers, from wearing religious symbols such as a hijab, crucifix, turban or kippah while on the job.

This contentious law has polarized public opinion. The detractors of Bill 21 claim that it fuels anti-religious sentiment, disproportionately affects Muslim women, and restricts the freedom of conscience and is, therefore, unconstitutional. The supporters of Bill 21 argue that it enforces the healthy separation of state and religion, prevents passive proselytism, and enhances gender equality by “freeing women from the constraints of oppressive religions”.

Dr. W. Y. Alice ChanDr. Alice Chan launched our first webinar in the four-part series titled “Bill 21: Understanding the different sides of the tension“.

Dr. W. Y. Alice Chan is the executive director and co-founder of the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy. Her research, professional, and personal experiences have pushed her to see the importance of fostering understanding among religious, spiritual, and non-religious people, and the implications of a lack of understanding.

Dr. Chan grew up in Ontario, engages with partners across Canada, and now lives in Montreal. This wide lens and her research on religious bullying help her understand the tensions around Bill 21 and she will bring this to our webinar.
To learn more about her publications and presentations, visit To learn more about the Centre, visit

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