Quebec courtroom strikes down components of ‘religious symbols’ legislation


A courtroom within the Canadian province of Quebec has struck down components of a legislation that bars some public sector workers from sporting spiritual symbols such because the hijab on the job – however upheld many of the contentious laws.

In a prolonged choice issued on Tuesday morning, Quebec Superior Court stated the laws – broadly referred to as Bill 21 – violates components of Canada’s structure, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Specifically, it stated the legislation infringes on Section 23, which ensures minority academic rights, in addition to Section 3, which outlines the correct to serve within the provincial legislature.

But the choice upholds many of the laws, which bars public sector workers in positions of authority, equivalent to lecturers and state prosecutors, from sporting spiritual symbols at work. That can embody the hijab worn by some Muslim ladies, Jewish yarmulkes or Sikh turbans.

Passed in June 2019, Bill 21 has drawn widespread criticism as a violation of non secular freedom, with civil rights and spiritual teams saying it would disproportionately hurt Muslim ladies who’re already marginalised.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), two of the principle teams difficult the legislation as unconstitutional, stated on Tuesday they had been finding out the courtroom’s choice and would remark later.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada stated whereas it was happy components of the legislation had been struck down, “we must continue the legal battle to see this discriminatory law struck in its entirety”.

“We continue to review the decision,” the group tweeted.

The Superior Court’s choice may very well be appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeal, and will finally find yourself earlier than the Supreme Court of Canada.

CBC News reported that Tuesday’s ruling means English-language colleges within the predominantly francophone province will probably be exempt, whereas members of the legislature will probably be allowed to cowl their faces for spiritual causes.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB), the biggest English-language public faculty board in Quebec, which had challenged the legislation, stated it was “elated” by the ruling.

“This legislation runs contrary to what we teach and to the culture of respect for individual rights and religious freedoms within English-language schools,” stated Giuseppe Ortona, a lawyer for the EMSB, in a tweet shared by the college board.

“Moreover, a religious symbol worn by a teacher in no way affects their ability to provide quality education in a secular state, within a secular education system and in the classrooms of public schools administered by the EMSB.”

The provincial authorities stated it could touch upon the courtroom’s choice on Tuesday afternoon.

Quebec had invoked a seldom-used clause within the Charter to restrict authorized efforts in opposition to Bill 21, barring teams from arguing the legislation violated freedom of faith, amongst different protected rights.

The litigants within the case used different Charter provisions to argue the legislation was unconstitutional.

“Canada’s constitution is supposed to protect our law and democracy,” Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, equality programme director at CCLA, stated in an announcement final fall (autumn) earlier than the Quebec Superior Court hearings.

“There is no excuse for a discriminatory law that has already caused intense harm to Muslim women and others,” she stated.

Quebec has seen greater than a decade of heated debates round secularism, the separation of church and state, and what officers have known as the “reasonable accommodation” of non secular minorities.

2018 10 01T000000Z 1389008523 RC18CF8E0D40 RTRMADP 3 CANADA ELECTION QUEBECQuebec Premier Francois Legault has justified Bill 21 as a crucial measure to ensure state secularism [File: Chris Wattie/Reuters]

Bill 21 is the newest effort to limit spiritual symbols within the province, the place the federal government has argued the legislation is a crucial measure to ensure state secularism (laïcité, in French).

Shortly earlier than it was handed in 2019, a ballot confirmed 64 p.c of Quebecers had been in favour of limiting spiritual symbols within the public sphere, in comparison with solely 27 p.c in opposition to.

But critics have stated the legislation sends a harmful message amid an uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec, the place a gunman opened hearth on a mosque within the provincial capital, Quebec City, in January 2017, killing six worshippers.

Muslim ladies in Quebec even have reported an uptick in harassment and violence, which they’ve linked to the passage of, and heated discourse round, Bill 21.