Quebec government ‘happy’ after Supreme Court declines to hear Bill 21 challenge, premier says

Women wearing hijabs leave the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, where members of the National Council of Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) challenged Quebec's Bill 21. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault is pleased that a challenge to suspend central provisions of his government’s secularism law will not be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The legislation, known as Bill 21, bars some public-sector employees — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols while at work.

“As you can understand, we are very happy that we won this case and that Bill 21 will be able to continue to be applied,” Legault said on Friday.

Canadian civil rights groups and a student who wears a hijab had sought leave at the country’s highest court after Quebec’s top court rejected their challenge in December.

At the time, the Quebec Court of Appeal handed down a 2-1 ruling on their application for a stay of the secularism law until a full legal challenge could be heard in Quebec Superior Court.

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The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to reject the hearing was announced on Thursday. The groups behind the challenge expressed disappointment but vowed to continue fighting a law they describe as “discriminatory.”

In court, they have claimed the religious symbols ban unfairly targets women and creates “unnecessary division and hardship.”

The law, which was a key election promise by Legault during the 2018 provincial campaign, has sparked backlash from civil liberties groups and teachers’ federations since it was adopted last year.

However, the premier has consistently defended his government’s flagship legislation and has argued that it maintains the support of the majority of Quebecers.

Legault, for his part, acknowledged on Friday that there will be other challenges to the law, but that he is content that the Supreme Court rejected the groups’ application for leave.

A full legal challenge of Bill 21 is scheduled to be heard in October.

Click to play video: 'The battle to suspend or overturn Bill 21 continues'
The battle to suspend or overturn Bill 21 continues

 With files from the Canadian Press


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