Fundraiser touted by City of Calgary to fight Quebec's Bill 21 not getting much cash

Calgary city council decided against contributing $100,000 to the legal challenge of the Quebec legislation and instead promoted an existing GoFundMe campaign. (Scott Crowson/CBC - image credit)
Calgary city council decided against contributing $100,000 to the legal challenge of the Quebec legislation and instead promoted an existing GoFundMe campaign. (Scott Crowson/CBC - image credit)

For months, a City of Calgary website has been directing people to a GoFundMe campaign that's raising money for a legal challenge of Quebec's Bill 21 legislation.

But since June, that fundraiser has taken in only 40 donations worth $7,790. One donor alone gave $5,000 of that total.

The Quebec legislation prohibits some public servants from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, crucifixes or turbans while in the workplace.

Religious groups have argued the law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Last year, members of Calgary's then newly elected city council mused about joining other municipalities unhappy with the legislation who were donating public money for the legal challenge.

However, council opted in June to direct donors wanting to support the cause to a GoFundMe page.

The cash would go to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, the National Canadian Council of Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Those are the groups fighting the legislation in court.

Fritzology Inc.
Fritzology Inc.

Coun. Jasmine Mian, who supports the court challenge, said she's not surprised support is sluggish.

"At the end of the day, I don't know if the amount is really that surprising given that the main news around this was December of last year and then we pushed out the fundraising for it," said Mian.

"For those who are still interested, it was six months later and it is what it is, I suppose."

There was some public pushback to the idea of donating city funds. Instead, council appointed three of its members, including Mian, to a task force that studied the issue.

Months later, she said the lack of donations from Calgarians might be a sign that council was right to not give money on behalf of citizens.

"One way of looking at it is that if council had committed to spending $100,000 to do this, we would have grossly overshot what was the interest in that at the time, right?"

Mian, along with Coun. Richard Pootmans and Coun. Evan Spencer, have made donations.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Tejinder Singh Sidhu, also attributes the lack of donations to timing, given that other municipalities were talking about the issue in December 2021.

"If any money or if any initiative at that time was drawn up, I think it probably would have gotten more exposure and we probably would have had more support," he said.

The groups behind the legal challenge of the legislation will be making arguments against the law next month at the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Sidhu said the GoFundMe will remain up as it is anticipated their legal case will wind up in the Supreme Court of Canada at some point.

He said municipalities such as Victoria, Winnipeg, London and Brampton are among those in Canada that have donated money for the legal challenge.