Groups opposed to Quebec’s secularism law are seeking to appeal a court decision that found it wasn’t necessary to suspend certain provisions of the law.
Last Thursday, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that Bill 21 would continue to apply in full until a challenge of the law could be heard on it merits.
The provincial law, which came into effect in June, bans some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.
“We cannot tell a certain segment of the society that they cannot participate because they are different,” said Steve Slimovitch, criminal law adviser for B’nai Brith.
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On the steps of the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal Tuesday, two organizations opposed to the law announced they had filed a motion seeking leave to appeal on Monday.
Justice Michel Yergeau ruled last week that the applicants had failed to demonstrate harm warranting a stay, but National Council of Canadian Muslims’ executive director Mustafa Farooq argues that people are being affected by the law now and it must be stopped.
“We disagree that the harm to folks in Quebec is hypothetical. Rather it is actual, inevitable and irreparable,” he insisted.
Bill 21 invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution, which prevents citizens from challenging the law for violating fundamental rights and liberties protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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The lawyers who challenged the legislation went beyond the charter arguments, arguing the law is unconstitutional because it encroaches on federal jurisdiction, it is impermissibly vague and it violates citizens’ rights to participate in their democratic institutions.
“I am someone from a religious minority and I have to choose between my career and my profession,” said Amrit Kaur, a recent teaching graduate.
“I’m actually seeking employment outside of the province because I can’t do my job here. So if that’s not harm, I don’t know what is.”
On Tuesday, other organizations including the World Sikh Council and B’nai Brith Canada said they are considering seeking intervener status to join the National Council of Canadian Muslims and Canadian Civil Liberties Association in the case.
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