Quebec Superior Court decision moves Quebec closer toward anti-religious society
While the rest of Canada prides itself on rich, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic fabrics, Quebec’s Superior Court decision has mostly upheld the provincial law that prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work.
Bill 21 was adopted in 2019, and the provincial government pre-emptively put in place a notwithstanding clause to avoid challenges to the law.
Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard struck down parts of the bill that pertain to the English school board in Quebec, and members of the National Assembly.
Father Deacon Andrew Bennett, director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute responds to the ruling:
SP: What are your thoughts on the Quebec Super Court’s decision on Bill 21?
FDAB: The ruling by Justice Blanchard is certainly a mixed one. Those who hoped for either a striking down of Quebec’s secularism law or at least a significant check on its discriminatory effects will be disappointed. However, the judge’s opinion of the Province’s pre-emptive invoking of s. 33 of the Charter, the so-called “notwithstanding clause’, was excessive in its breadth of application offers some hope for future challenges at the provincial appellate level and likely at the Supreme Court.
SP: What do you think of Justice Blanchard ruling the law unconstitutional for English school boards means for schools?
FDAB: Any limit on the discriminatory aspects of this law are welcome and certainly it affirms the fundamental freedom of teachers and employees of the English school board in Montreal to live their faith fully and publicly, but it is a pyrrhic victory. The decision creates two classes now: those public servants, predominantly francophone, who are bound by the law and English teachers who are not. This is sure to be a key issue raised by the applicants in any future appeal.
SP: Does this lead Quebec into a more “anti-religious” society?
FDAB: Quebec is increasingly becoming a secularist society where the official religion of the state is closed secularism. All citizens should aim to promote an open secularism whereby all religious or philosophical beliefs are able to peacefully co-exist and contribute freely to public debate in the interest of the common good.
For a look at Context’s coverage on Bill 21 see:
Quebec’s Bill 21 and the power of religious symbols (Episode 1822)
Lorna Dueck writes on Quebec’s banning of religious symbols – Bill 21
Quebec passes Bill-21 banning wearing religious symbols for certain public servants