Quebec secularism law could hurt social cohesion, expert tells court challenge

Bill 21 (against ) CTV  News

A psychology expert told the court challenge to Quebec's secularism law that Bill 21 may lead to people who are Jewish, Sikh and Muslim feeling increasingly stigmatized and could ultimately hurt social cohesion.

Richard Bourhis told a Montreal courtroom on Friday that studies have shown efforts to sort people into different categories create an ``us and them'' phenomenon that can reinforce feelings of prejudice between groups.

Bourhis testified on Day 5 of the legal proceedings against Bill 21, the law that bans public sector workers in positions of authority -- including teachers and judges -- from wearing religious symbols on the job.

He said the law could embolden some people who already have negative perceptions of their counterparts who wear religious symbols, while making people who wear them feel excluded.

Feeling discriminated against "can lead people to doubt themselves, to feel sad, stressed, and in poorer mental health,'' Bourhis told the court by video link. "They feel rejected by the majority.''

The Universite du Quebec a Montreal professor emeritus said the effect of this categorization is greater when it comes to groups that already experience discrimination, particularly Muslim women who wear the hijab.

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