March 3rd, 2024

Quebec cites ‘social peace’ to extend notwithstanding clause on secularism law

By The Canadian Press on February 8, 2024.

Quebec Minister Responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie Jean-Francois Roberge presents legislation during question period, Thursday, February 8, 2024 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC – The Quebec government tabled legislation today to continue shielding the province’s secularism law – known as Bill 21 – from court challenges over Charter violations.

Jean-François Roberge, the minister responsible for secularism, says the application of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause for another five years is needed to preserve “social peace” in the province.

Bill 21 was passed in June 2019 and prohibits public servants deemed to be in positions of authority – including teachers, police officers and judges – from wearing religious symbols on the job.

The official Opposition Liberals oppose the extension of the notwithstanding clause, saying there is no justification for suspending fundamental freedoms.

But the Coalition Avenir Québec has a majority government, and the other two opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire, support the extension of the clause.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that the notwithstanding clause can be applied to legislation for five years, after which time a government has to renew it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2024.

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