Association of Suburban Municipalities: Bill 60 is deeply flawed and will have a detrimental impact on our cities

On December 20, 2013 the Association of Suburban Municipalities (ASM) submitted to the provincial government its brief concerning Bill 60 - Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests. To date, the ASM has yet to be invited to submit its brief to the government’s Commission on Institutions. Given the prospect of a provincial election in the very near future, it now appears unlikely that the ASM will ever have the opportunity to do so. Therefore, the ASM is now releasing its brief.

A copy of the ASM brief is available at CoteSaintLuc.org/Bill60.

We, as democratically-elected municipal officials, are being told we must adopt policies in line with a proposed law that run contrary to our deepest convictions and those of the citizens we represent. Moreover, this bill attacks the autonomy of our cities and ultimately forces us to sanction a divisive strategy concocted for purely political purposes.

“The reality of the situation is that the proposed law is an attempt to solve an alleged problem that simply does not exist,” said Anthony Housefather, Mayor of the City of Côte Saint-Luc and Secretary of the ASM. “Nobody has presented any evidence of an issue with civil servants forcing religious views on others based on their dress. None of us have ever experienced a complaint in our municipalities related to our employees who wear religious symbols. The Quebec government has offered no statistics to show how many employees would be impacted by the proposal. In fact, the government presented this bill without a single research study showing why such radical intervention has suddenly become necessary.”

The ASM believes that a person’s ability to serve as an employee in our municipalities depends on their qualifications to do the job, not on what they wear. 

“Religious and cultural diversity is more prevalent on the island of Montreal than anywhere else in Quebec,” said Mayor Philippe Roy of the Town of Mount Royal. “Given this fact, I believe that accommodation requests and how to deal with them should be addressed by local elected officials.” 

The ideology that divides us here is so wide and so glaring that Bill 60’s requirements related to municipalities to adopt a policy to implement the provisions of the proposed law would be a violation of the conscience and morality of the ASM elected officials involved. We could never support policies that were consistent with many of the provisions of the proposed law.

The law goes on to state that if a public body (including each ASM city) refuses to adopt a policy within one year, the Quebec government can then step in and force one upon it. In our view this shows a complete misunderstanding of the realities of our citizenry and a complete disrespect for municipal autonomy to deal with its own distinct realities and to be governed according to the values of its elected officials and its citizenry. We cannot agree with this government’s implied position that democracy means that the major¬ity can simply pass laws or impose policies that trump the rights of minorities or individuals. This is exactly why both Canada and Quebec have adopted human rights charters that are supposed to protect individual liberties regardless of the will of the majority or government of the day.

For these and many other reasons as outlined in our brief, the ASM strongly opposes Bill 60. 

We firmly believe a number of its provisions are unconstitutional and totally unacceptable for the vast majority of our citizens. It is a law that will not only have a detrimental impact on our cities, it will also breed division within Quebec society accompanied by major social and economic damage.

The Association of Suburban Municipalities represents 15 municipalities on the Island of Montreal, with an approximate population of 242,600 citizens. The municipalities represented by this brief include Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, Côte Saint-Luc, Pointe-Claire, Kirkland, Westmount, Beaconsfield, Town of Mount Royal, Dorval, Hampstead, Montreal West, Baie-d’Urfé, Senneville and Dorval Island.  

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