April 24th, 2024

Quick Quotes: Reaction to Quebec Appeal Court ruling upholding religious symbols ban

By The Canadian Press on February 29, 2024.

MONTREAL – The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld Quebec’s Bill 21 Thursday, finding the secularism law, which bans teachers, judges, police officers and prison guards from wearing religious symbols on the job, to be constitutional.

Here’s a quick look at some of the reaction to the decision:

“Secularism is a collective choice that is part of our history, in continuity with the Quiet Revolution. Secularism is a principle that unites us as a nation in Quebec. The government of Quebec, it’s important to say, will use the parliamentary sovereignty clause, known as the notwithstanding clause, as long as it takes for Canada to recognize the societal choices of the Quebec nation.” – Quebec Premier François Legault.

“As we have stated before, our government has serious concerns with the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause, Section 33 of the Charter. The first word should not be the last in the dialogue between legislatures and the courts.” – Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani.

“People in this province, and across Canada, have a set of values that we believe in and that we hold dear, and Bill 21, in contrast to that, discriminates against people on the basis of their religion, makes it impossible for people to participate in the jobs that they want and make sure that ordinary people are able to say to their children, ‘You have a future, you can be whoever you want.'” – Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“We think that teachers should have the right to wear whatever they want and that we should have the right to hire teachers without arbitrary criteria, like what they choose to wear, that has absolutely no bearing on the quality of education that the children receive …. No student and no parent has ever complained about a teacher in the class wearing a religious symbol.” – Joe Ortona, the chair of the English Montreal School Board

“Today is a great victory for our English-speaking citizens, for our English-speaking friends, because they were denied under the ruling of the Superior Court, the right to secular public services in anglophone schools.” – Guillaume Rousseau, a lawyer for Mouvement laïque québécois.

“One can certainly have many different views on the law and its appropriateness, whether from a political, sociological or moral perspective. This judgment, however, will evidently consider only the legal aspect of the debate. Like the Superior Court before it, the court here is acting as part of a process – one initiated by various groups of litigants – to examine the legality of the law, and it is not ruling on the wisdom of enacting it.” – Quebec Court of Appeal judgment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

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