In the Ontario of my youth, the city of Brampton was best known as the political stronghold of Bill Davis. Becoming the Progressive Conservative premier of the province in 1971, the one nicknamed “Brampton Billy” embodied the old Tory tradition of Upper Canada, just like the city where he began his career as a lawyer in the 1950s. Beginning in the 1970s, the establishment of a more open immigration policy by the federal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau led to the transformation of Brampton, in the space of a few decades, into a vast multicultural suburb where the second language spoken after English is Punjabi and where gurdwaras, mandirs and mosques proliferate.
Located northwest of Toronto, Brampton has become the ninth largest city in Canada, with a population of over 600,000 people – overtaking the cities of Quebec, Laval and Gatineau. At its current rate of growth, Brampton is expected to have over one million inhabitants by 2030. Thousands of newcomers from South Asia choose to settle there each year in order to enjoy a cultural environment. where they feel comfortable. Indeed, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities now account for nearly 40% of the city’s population.
It is therefore no mystery that the mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, rose up last week to denounce Bill 21 and to ask a hundred of his counterparts across Canada to help fund the legal challenge. led by a coalition of groups, including the World Organization of Sikhs in Canada, against this law. It is a simple matter of political survival as Mr. Brown prepares to launch his campaign for municipal elections in Ontario next fall.
No one doubts the sincerity of most of the municipal politicians in English Canada who have joined Mr. Brown’s cause over the past few days. Law 21 deeply offends the image they have of their country, where multiculturalism is considered a fundamental value and where secularism remains a concept foreign to the mores and customs of society. But neither can we deny the political calculation that led many mayors and city councilors to speak out against Bill 21 in the days following the reassignment of a teacher wearing the hijab by the Western Quebec School Board.
The opportunity was too good for such astute politicians as Mr. Brown to resist the temptation to capitalize on their own multicultural electorates. This is how the mayors of Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary, Markham, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Guelph have all spoken out loud and clear against Bill 21.
On Tuesday, the council of the City of London in Ontario – where four members of a Muslim family were killed last June by a motorist who had targeted them because of their religion – also adopted a unanimous motion to denounce Bill 21 The same council voted 13-2 to follow Brampton’s lead by contributing up to $ 100,000 to support protesters of the law which London Mayor Ed Holder has described as “odious” and “lousy”. ‘antithesis of all that we represent’. For his part, the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, defended himself from meddling in Quebec politics after the city council of his metropolis voted 25 to 0 to condemn Bill 21. “This law diminishes the rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and goes against the values of Torontonians and Canadians, he said. It is not just a Quebec issue. This is a national issue that affects the rights of all Canadians. “
The mobilization of English-Canadian cities against Bill 21 is not unrelated to the about-face of the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh, linked to an intervention by the federal government in this file. After having maintained the total ambiguity on this question since the adoption of this law in 2019, Mr. Singh now calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support “these 3 million Quebecers who oppose this law, who are ‘oppose discrimination’ by participating in the legal challenge currently before the Quebec Court of Appeal. Mr. Singh previously represented Brampton in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. His fate as leader of the federal NDP depends on his ability to attract voters to urban areas. Remember that the NDP did not win any riding in the Toronto region during the federal election last September. It is not by ignoring the consensus of the mayors of the region regarding Bill 21 that he will be able to reverse this trend.
Trudeau’s Liberals won in four federal ridings that include Brampton. This is one of the reasons why this government will be forced to join the legal fight against Bill 21 when it goes to the Supreme Court of Canada. The multicultural Canada, which is the legacy of Father Trudeau, will accept no less.