ETA: In a ruling handed down today the Quebec Court of Appeal rejected a challenge by a 2-1 vote to Quebec's secularism law, called Bill 21. The Canadian Muslim Council called the ruling "devastating". The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the fight is not over, indicating that it will appeal.
The Quebec Court of Appeal has rejected a challenge to the province’s secularism law known as Bill 21. The 2-1 ruling, which was handed down Thursday afternoon, stems from an application for a stay of the religious symbols ban until a full legal challenge could be heard.
The provincial government’s legislation prohibits some employees in positions of authority — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a university student who wears the hijab argue Bill 21 disproportionately affects women and harms minority groups. “While we are disappointed with the result, we never thought that fighting for the rights of Quebecers and Canadians would be easy,” said Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, in a statement.
In November, the civil liberties groups appeared before Quebec’s highest court after their request for an immediate stay of some of the law’s provisions was rejected by a Superior Court judge in the summer.
However, the province’s chief justice, Nicole Duval Hesler, granted the applicants leave to appeal the decision. She was one of three justices hearing the case before the appeal court.
The decision comes as Duval Hesler is the target of complaints to the Canadian Judicial Council over her handling of hearing the legal challenge to Bill 21. Her remarks have been called into question after she called herself a feminist and suggested the religious symbols ban was borne from “visual allergies” to seeing women donning a Muslim headscarf. ...
The Legault government, meanwhile, has staunchly defended the secularism law, saying it has the support of a majority of Quebecers.
Both the province and its opponents have said they are willing to take Bill 21 to the Supreme Court if necessary.