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Bill 21 Is Leading Some Local Students To Look For Jobs Outside Quebec, Survey Shows

Researchers studied the effects of the religious symbols ban on students. The results are striking.

Contributing Writer
The exterior of the McGill University Arts Building.

The exterior of the McGill University Arts Building.

Bill 21 continues to face heavy opposition. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has been fighting it since it was passed in June 2019. Since it entered force, Quebec police officers, teachers and lawyers, among other public servants, have been required to take off any religious garb or symbols while performing their duties. This includes hijabs, turbans, crosses and yarmulkes.

And it's not just affecting current workers — it's affecting students, too.

Researchers at McGill and Concordia aimed to study the effects of the law on students through an online survey conducted between October 2020 and November 2021. 629 students sent in responses.

The results are striking.

Jewish students responding to the survey "reported experiencing increased instances of anti-Semitism" since June 2019, according to a summary published by the McGill newsroom.

76% of self-identifying women wearing religious head coverings noted instances of discrimination ranging from street harassment to issues in school. In all, 56.5% of the students polled who wear religious symbols said they've been on the receiving end of discrimination.

Whether or not they've experienced discrimination themselves, students are apt to think less of the provincial government as a result of Bill 21. 70% of respondents said that the law has worsened their opinion of the Quebec government.

More than half (51%) of students in the survey said they'll be applying to jobs outside the province in response to Bill 21, McGill said in the news release. More than half of the students who said so are currently in education programs, a field that desperately needs qualified personnel.

"A number of students in Education left comments indicating that they were unwilling to teach in Quebec because of Law 21, despite not being directly personally affected," survey co-author and McGill professor Elizabeth Elbourne said.

The survey suggests Bill 21 is also having a direct impact on religious students' studies.

Of the respondents who regularly wear religious symbols, 70.6% said they believe that Bill 21 will make their post-graduation job hunt more difficult. 26% of students who were pursuing degrees in law or education and wear religious symbols said they have changed their field of study because of it.

"People should not be forced to make the choice between their religion, their identity and their profession," the CCLA states on its website. "The government should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on the people of Quebec, nor should they be dictating to individuals what they can and cannot wear."

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