Young Sikh teacher leaves Quebec for B.C. over Bill 21 religious symbols exclusion
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2019 5:45PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, August 14, 2019 6:59PM EDT
A promising Quebec teacher said she's leaving the province after being forced to choose between her career and her religion.
Bill 21, the law on religious neutrality, would prevent Amrit Kaur from being able to work in the public system when school starts in September unless she removes her turban.
Next Tuesday, Kaur will start her career in British Columbia, because as an observant Sikh, she wears her turban proudly and has no intentions of removing it.
"My turban is a symbol of equality. It's a symbol that is empowering to women because traditionally, over the world, we've seen men wearing turbans. But in the Sikh faith, women wear it too, because we are no different than men," she said.
The young teacher said now she feels persecuted because of the symbol of her faith.
"It makes me feel like a second-class citizen, like I don't belong," said Kaur. "I was offered a job in British Columbia and I'm excited to see where that takes me in my teaching profession."
As Kaur prepares her lesson plans, she is also preparing to leave friends and family behind.
"I'm leaving everything behind, and I'm going to a new area, and I don't know anyone. I am changing my entire life because of the stupid racist bill," she said.
Kaur has been at the forefront of the fight against Bill 21 since its adoption, submitting an affidavit to the courts in June as part of a constitutional challenge.
The judge in the case refused to stay the law, saying the impacts on people's lives were hypothetical.
The judge could not have been more wrong, contends lawyer May Chiu.
"The news of Ms. Kaur's actual preparation to leave the province, you can't have more concrete proof as to how this law is tearing up people's lives, and their careers, and their futures," said Chiu.
Kaur said she plans to use her experience fighting Bill 21 when she steps into the classroom next month.
"I think as a teacher, you want to teach the next generation about inclusivity and diversity, and I plan on teaching my students about Bill 21," she said.
The Quebec government has said individuals like Amrit Kaur do in fact have a choice – they could set aside their religious symbols when they're on the job and continue to wear them in their private lives – or find another job.