Quebec appeals Superior Court's decision to nix parts of secularism law

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Quebec Justice Minister and Attorney General Simon Jolin-Barrette announced the government is appealing a Superior Court decision on the province's secularism law. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Quebec Justice Minister and Attorney General Simon Jolin-Barrette announced the government is appealing a Superior Court decision on the province's secularism law. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Quebec's attorney general filed a notice of appeal Friday regarding the Superior Court decision on April 20, which upheld most, but not all of the province's controversial secularism law enacted under the Coalition Avenir Québec government.

In that ruling, Justice Marc-André Blanchard declared that the most contentious parts of the law — the religious symbols ban for many government employees — can't be applied to English school boards.

The desire of English school boards to foster diversity by choosing who they hire is protected by the minority-language education rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Blanchard said in his decision.

Blanchard also ruled that members of the province's National Assembly can't be forced to provide services to the public with their faces uncovered.

In other words, MNAs are allowed to wear religious symbols that cover their faces, such as a niqab, in accordance with the section of the charter that guarantees every citizen the right to be eligible to vote and be a member of the legislature.

Not long after the decision was handed down, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, the architect of Bill 21, said the province planned to appeal.

In the announcement issued by his office Friday evening, the appeal procedure relates to the two conclusions of the judgment regarding English schools and legislators.

"The Quebec nation has made the choice of secularism," said Jolin-Barrette in the statement.

"A choice based on our history and which reflects our values. This choice is a generator of rights and a source of social progress, equality and justice. We will spare no effort to defend this important law for Quebec."