Simon Jolin-Barrette and François Legault Boys Club bill 96

Photo by Jacques Boissinot

Bill 21 upheld in today’s Quebec Court of Appeal ruling

A sad day for rights and freedoms.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that Quebec secularism law Bill 21 is constitutional. The law bars public sector employees in positions of authority (including teachers) from wearing religious symbols.

Though the law was upheld by the Quebec Superior Court following a challenge in April 2021, provisions relating to English school boards and a ban on face coverings for MNAs were struck down. The Quebec government appealed the ruling on English school boards, with Premier François Legault saying, “We fully respect the rights of the English-speaking minority, but secularism and Quebec’s common values have no language barrier.” English schools have had to abide by Bill 21 pending the conclusion of the government’s appeal, but their exemption from the law has been overturned by today’s ruling.

The earlier ruling also acknowledged that the law violates the rights of Muslim women and is “cruel” towards people who wear religious symbols and are forced to choose between their beliefs and their ability to work in the public sector.

In order to pass Bill 21 in 2019, the Quebec government invoked the notwithstanding clause, meaning the law couldn’t be challenged on the grounds that it violated basic rights according to certain sections of the charter. However, the law could still be subject to a Supreme Court challenge, and should this take place, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated in a press conference today that the federal government would intervene “to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

For our latest in news, please visit the News section.