By excluding English-language school boards from the State Secularism Act, the judge thus weakened Quebec’s jurisdiction over education, deplores the Mouvement laïque québécois [MLQ] who said all the same “relieved” that the law was still largely maintained.
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“It is as if these school boards became a state within a state, for the autonomy of Quebec in matters of education, it is really worrying”, commented at a press briefing in front of the courthouse of Montreal. Guillaume Rousseau who represented the MLQ in its defense of the law.
In a 240-page judgment rendered this morning, Judge Marc-André Blanchard thus upheld the Law on State Secularism, adopted in 2019, which prohibits, among other things, the wearing of religious symbols by judges, police officers, prosecutors. , correctional officers and professors, within the framework of their functions.
To avoid a legal challenge, the government of Quebec had used the notwithstanding clause, in order to prevent the risk of it being invalidated. And it is precisely because of this that it has largely been maintained, with the exception of English-language school boards and for elected officials of the National Assembly.
“What we were arguing is that the law was valid, even without the derogation clause,” declared Me Luc Alarie, who also represented the MLQ.
However, the organization admits to having felt a “certain relief” that the law was maintained. He regrets, however, that the judge did not speak about the parents who were heard at the trial.
“These parents explained that [le port de signes religieux par les enseignants] violates their right of conscience, and the judge completely ignored them, ”commented MLQ vice-president Lucie Jobin.
Freedom of conscience
Ms. Jobin also said she was disappointed that English-language school boards were excluded from the law, which would allow teachers to do their work wearing religious symbols and “even wearing a niqab”.
“School is for the good of children, teachers must provide services, they are models for children,” added Me Alarie. It is hard to understand why the judge says that wearing a religious symbol is a passive act, while for some, it is out of activism that they wear the hijab or a religious symbol. “
But even if the path taken by the judge to maintain the law largely differs from the avenue proposed by the MLQ, the organization considers that it is still a “victory for freedom of conscience.” students”.
The lawyer representing For the Rights of Women of Quebec, Me Christiane Pelchat, for her part deplored that the judge “completely ignored” his representations that allowing the wearing of religious symbols to teachers violated equality. women.
The MLQ has already announced that it will be on the side of the Attorney General of Quebec, who has announced that he will challenge Judge Blanchard’s decision before the highest court in the province.