Protesters gathered in downtown in Montreal on Sunday to voice their opposition to extreme right wing politics, racism and Quebec’s controversial religious neutrality law.
The event was co-organized and attended by several organizations, including student associations, teacher unions, the Montreal chapter of Black Lives Matter, the Association for Progressive Jurists and the Association of Muslims and Arabs for Secularism in Quebec.
"Our presence here highlights the unity across our struggles," said Solidarity Across Borders spokesperson Stacey Gomez. "We are here to speak out against racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, colonialism, sexism, transphobia and all forms of hate encouraged by the far right."
Gomez added the protest was meant to condemn capitalism and austerity, calling them the cause of social insecurity and poverty.
In a statement, organizers said they are distressed by the rise of the extreme right, which they said has been “galvanized” by Parti Quebecois’ Charter of Values and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
They pointed to the killing of six people in a Quebec City mosque in January, saying that since then, hate speech has become trivialized.
Fatima Ahmad, who wears a face covering, said she felt targeted by Bill 62, which has been accused of targeting Muslim women.
"I wanted to come to show support for people from minority groups. I think throughout Europe and North America, there's a lot of racism growing. It's better if we're united than divided and there's nothing to fear from love."
Ahmad said she wears a niqab as a sign of conviction towards god and personal modesty.
"I think people are unaware of the purpose of the niqab and if there's a dialogue, people will be more open to it," she said. "But I'm happy people are showing support against the bill."
Several feminist groups also took part to challenge Bill 62.
“The law targets a group of women by stigmatizing them, excluding them from public spaces,” said Federation of Quebec Women co-vice-president Marlihan Lopez. “We think it’s necessary to denounce it.”
Lopez rejected the Quebec Liberal government’s argument that the bill was necessary for security reasons.
“This is a fallacious argument. There has never been an incident in terms of security,” she said.
She added that the law is not neutral and it targets a specific group of women.
“These are women who are very visible at the moment, because we’re talking about them. It’s a small minority group and it leaves them much more vulnerable to hate crimes,” she said.
Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Masse said on Friday she also plans to attend the protest.
- With files from The Canadian Press