What to do if racism flows across the river

So I was watching Mike Patton’s Ottawa City Hall Update again, and I came across this video:

Okay, so any non-racist, non-sexist, thinking person knows the recent anti-(mulsim-)face-covering law is absolute bullshit, but Patton brings up a good question. How will this–and by extension, how should this–affect certain public services in Ottawa.

All signs point to this law being a 1950s-Alabama type law, banning muslim women who cover their faces from riding the bus. (I mean, how tone-deaf to the arc of history do you have to be?) Patton wonders, how is this going to affect OC Transpo buses that cross over to Gatineau? Will they be forced to abide by the law.

In addition, he wonders about STO buses that come over here. Will they refuse to serve Ottawa residents who cover their faces?

Now, it’s not clear that STO is willing to play ball with this racist law, but if it is going to be the law, these are worthy questions.

All right, first things first. I can’t possibly believe the law will apply to OC Transpo. It is decidedly not a Quebec public service and I can’t see how they (we) could be subject to the law. However, if Quebec authorities are going to press the issue, there are basically two avenues we should be willing to take.

First, refuse. We can’t let our public services be hijacked by the racist and Islamophobic agenda of some bigoted politicians across the river. But if that’s untenable, if the authorities decide to harass our drivers or passengers, then we have to stop servicing Gatineau. We can’t be a party to the institutionalized racism of Quebec (not that we don’t have our own problems with racism to deal with).

Okay, so that takes care of OC Transpo. What do we do if STO decides to comply with and enforce the new law? Well, in this situation there’s only one option. We don’t let them operate in Ottawa.

These are our streets. We can’t abide the discrimination. We can’t accept a transit service that actively discriminates and oppresses vulnerable groups to keep doing business in our city.

(I imagine there’d be a pretty straightforward human rights challenge to any attempt to run a racist business in Ottawa.)

Don’t get me wrong. This would complicate things for a lot of people. This would radically change the way people have to move between cities (and with so many government offices across the river, residents really need to move between cities). This wouldn’t be easy, and a lot of people would be mad.

But we can’t value convenience over the equality of women and minorities. We can’t sacrifice the rights of the oppressed to make our commute easier.

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