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Teacher opposed to Quebec secularism bill

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As the Quebec government rolls ahead with its proposal to ban public employees from wearing religious symbols, one teacher who dons a hijab says there will always be people who “try to politicize your faith.”

“Secularism is about the state. The state should be neutral. But it cannot compel its citizens to be neutral as well,” Bouchera Chelbi, a teacher at Saint-Barthélemy and Maisonneuve elementary schools in Montreal told The Current’s guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“Telling me that because I decide to wear a religious [symbol] … [it] hinders me from doing my job correctly, from being neutral towards my … students or towards my colleagues, it is completely false.”

This week, the Quebec government tabled its long-awaited secularism bill, laying out proposed rules for ensuring religious neutrality of the state.

“I’m very proud of the bill we tabled today. It represents values, our values, and it’s important,” Premier François Legault said on Thursday.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government tabled legislation this week that could prevent public sector employees from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab, kippa or turban. But it’s not the first time the idea has been proposed. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

If passed, Bill 21 would prevent public sector workers in positions of authority — teachers, police officers and government lawyers — from wearing religious symbols, such as the hijab.

Citizens could also be required to uncover their faces while receiving certain public services. For example, a woman could have to remove her niqab before getting on a bus, to confirm her identity in order to use a discounted transit card.

Activists condemn province’s proposed rules

The Coalition Avenir Québec government is the fourth in a row to draft comprehensive legislation attempting to regulate what accommodations should be made for religious minorities. None of those attempts were successful.

The proposed bill has drawn the ire of civil and religious rights activists in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, who plan to challenge the bill.

Quebec secularism bill

The Quebec government’s intentions to regulate religious clothing has already drawn protests, including this one last fall in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Leila Bensalem, a retired Montreal teacher who doesn’t wear religious symbols, sees things differently.

“It’s [religion], something that is private and that has nothing to do with your work and the people you are supposed to serve,” she told Chattopadhyay.

“If you represent the state, you are supposed to represent, as well, the neutrality of the state.”

Christopher Skeete tells The Current’s guest host Piya Chattopadhyay why the Quebec government hasn’t come up with a laundry list of religious symbols that would be banned if Bill 21 passes. 1:37

Bensalem argues people can take off their religious symbols for seven or eight hours at work, and then put them back on when they get home.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said.

‘It’s a big deal for me’

But for Chelbi, she says this is about her freedom as a woman, to wear what she chooses.

“It’s no big deal for her, but for me it’s a big deal,” she said of Bensalem’s comment. 

“I am a feminist. Do you think that I am going to allow anybody to [tell] me, ‘OK. If you want to go there you should be dressed like this.'”

Click ‘listen’ near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

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Pedestrian killed by car in Surrey

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One person has died after being struck by a car on Saturday night in the Newton neighbourhood of Surrey, B.C.

RCMP say a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle around 10:34 p.m, near the busy intersection of 152 Street and Highway 10.

Police say the pedestrian was pronounced dead on scene.

Evidence markers dotted Highway 10 for several dozen metres west of the intersection where a white car sat with front end damage.

The intersection was closed to traffic overnight while collision analysts examined the scene.

Police have not announced any details on what caused the crash.

Anyone who witnessed the collision, saw the vehicle beforehand, or has dash camera footage of the incident is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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Mississauga mayor statement after shooting in the city

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The mayor of Mississauga, Ont., says she’s “shocked and saddened” after a teenage boy was killed and five other people were wounded when gunfire erupted in the city west of Toronto on Saturday evening.

Bonnie Crombie called the incident a “senseless act of gun violence” and says her thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families.

Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord said at a news conference late Saturday night that according to witnesses, multiple suspects unleashed a barrage of gunfire from semi-automatic weapons near a parkette behind an apartment building at around 6:20 p.m.He said a 17-year-old old boy died at the scene and that five others – a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, two 17-year-olds and a woman in her 50s – were injured.

McCord said one of the wounded was in serious condition and that the other four suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

No suspect information has been released as officers continued to canvass the area for surveillance footage and police are asking anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.

Crombie thanked first responders who rushed to the scene and she says she hopes to take action in response to the shooting.

“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets,” said Crombie in a statement.

McCord has said that “a lot” of shell casings were found scattered over a wide area and that several vehicles were hit by the gunfire.

He said it’s early in the investigation and that many questions about the incident remained unanswered, including the motive, whether the victims were targeted and whether the shooting was gang related.

A music video was being filmed near the scene of the shooting, but McCord said he didn’t know if it was in any way linked to the case.

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Police seeking 7 suspects in shooting in Mississauga

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A 17-year-old boy who was killed in a shooting in Mississauga on Saturday night was an innocent victim, Peel Regional Police say.

Peel Police Chief Chris McCord told reporters on Sunday that investigators believe there were seven shooters involved in gunfire that injured four other teens and a woman in her 50s in a parkette behind an apartment complex.

The shooting occurred on Darcel Avenue near Dunrankin Drive, in the area of Morning Star and Goreway Drive. Police were called to the scene at 6:22 p.m.

Officers have recovered more than 100 shell casings at the crime scene.

McCord said police also believe the shooting was motivated by a rap music video that was filmed in the parkette and released last week.

The teen boy, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The five injured people — a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and two 17-year-old boys — were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police say one of the injured people has been released from hospital and the remaining four are in stable condition

McCord said some of the injured are also believed to be innocent victims.

He said the shooting occurred as people in the parkette were setting up to shoot a music video and an ice cream truck was nearby.

No one is in custody, no suspects have been identified and officers are reviewing security camera video.

Police believe the shooters used semi-automatic weapons, but none of those weapons have been recovered.

Mayor says she is ‘deeply shocked’ by shooting

On Sunday morning, police canvassed the neighbourhood, knocking on doors in the hopes of finding witnesses and security camera video.

Officers also sent out a drone to obtain an aerial view of the crime scene and brought in a metal detector to scan for stray bullets in the grass.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement Sunday that her thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this senseless act of gun violence in our city, it’s simply unacceptable. I urge anyone with information to contact police immediately,” Crombie said.

“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets.”

Crombie also thanked Peel police and paramedics who “swiftly” went to the scene.

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