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As criticism mounts, Quebec’s chief justice should withdraw from Bill 21 hearing: PQ

Pascal Bérubé, left, is calling on Nicole Duval Hesler, Quebec's chief justice, to withdraw herself from the case. Jean-Vincent Verville/Global News

The Parti Québécois is the latest to join the choir of voices asking for the province’s chief justice to withdraw from hearing a legal challenge to Quebec’s secularism law.

Pascal Bérubé, interim leader of the party, said Nicole Duval Hesler showed bias and he wants the province’s justice minister to intervene to ask Duval Hesler to recuse herself from the case.

“The situation is serious,” he said. “The independence of justice is at stake.”

The chief justice’s remarks have been called into question after she called herself a feminist and suggested opposition to the religious symbols ban was born from “visual allergies” to seeing women donning a Muslim headscarf.

“She needs to resign,” said Bérubé.

READ MORE: Quebec historian files complaint against chief justice hearing Bill 21 challenge

Duval Hesler made the comments while she was one of three judges hearing the appeal of Quebec’s secularism law by Canadian civil liberties groups on Nov. 26. They want parts of the law stayed until their full legal challenge is heard.

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Bill 21, the province’s secularism law, bars public-sector employees in positions of authority — including teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols while on duty.

Quebec Premier François Legault has said he will not comment on the case, citing the separation of powers between him and Justice Minister Sonia LeBel.

“I am trying to be prudent,” he told reporters at the province’s legislature on Thursday.

READ MORE: Quebec chief justice hearing Bill 21 will no longer hold lecture at Lord Reading Law Association

A Dawson College professor lodged a complaint against Duval Hesler to the Canadian Judicial Council earlier this week. Frédéric Bastien cited her remarks and a planned speech at Lord Reading Law Society, which has actively spoken out against Bill 21, as the reason for his complaint.

The society announced on Wednesday that it and Duval Hesler decided to postpone her appearance planned for later this month.

Aside from the Parti Québécois, an organization for women’s rights in Quebec has called on Duval Hesler to recuse herself from the case. Pour les droits des femmes du Quebec argues there are doubts over the chief justice’s impartiality.

— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and the Canadian Press

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