Bill 21 on State Secularism – Judgement of the Court of Appeal
Alliance for Secularism Welcomes the Decision by the Court of Appeal
Montréal, Thursday, 12th December 2019 – Having learned of the judgement issued this afternoon by the Quebec Court of Appeal by which Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, will continue to be completely enforced, the Alliance for Secularism (RPL or Rassemblement pour la laïcité), a coalition of several associations of civil society which promote secularism, welcomes this important decision.
Thus, with this majority decision, although the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal Ms. Nicole Duval Hesler officially declared her disagreement, the Court has rejected the request for an injunction to suspend Bill 21 immediately. For the RPL, this decision represents a great victory for Quebec society. In the words of Michèle Sirois, RPL co-spokesperson, “The judgement issued today by the Court of Appeal represents, in our view, a major step forward for the principle of State secularism and for the freedom of conscience of citizens who use Quebec public services.”
Particularly noteworthy is that the ban on teachers wearing religious symbols while at work will continue. This, for the RPL, is essential because schools are at the heart of the struggle for secularism. By maintaining this ban, the coalition considers that freedom of conscience for pupils and parents is finally respected, indeed deemed to be equal in importance to freedom of religion. Furthermore, the RPL disagrees with the assertions of judges Duval Hesler and Bélanger who allege that Bill 21 is discriminatory.
Similarly, RPL spokespersons are convinced that actions undertaken by citizens in recent weeks to denounce certain unacceptable behaviour of the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal during the examination of the case have now paid off. They echo the words of Mr. Jacques Dupuis, formerly Quebec attorney general under the Liberal government, that the only way for the Court of Appeal to recover from the complaints against its Chief Justice would be to reject the suspension of Bill 21.
“Judges’ duty of restraint, impartiality and absence of conflict of interest in the performance of their duties have been at the centre of debates in recent weeks and are essential values. They need to be reaffirmed and will be constantly monitored by the citizenry. In that regard, the decision by Ms. Duval Hesler to postpone her speech, scheduled for December 10th before the Lord Reading legal association which opposes Bill 21, confirms undeniably that citizen action and the approximately fifty complaints against the Chief Justice submitted to the Canadian Judicial Council have had a major effect. The RPL, accompanied by its allies, will continue to follow closely the evolution of this issue which is important for Quebec society,” added RPL co-spokesperson Claude Kamal Codsi.
Finally, the RPL invites the plaintiffs to refrain from appealing today’s decision, given that the real trial of Bill 21 on State secularism will occur in the autumn of 2020.
About the RPL:
The Alliance for Secularism (RPL or Rassemblement pour la laïcité) is a citizen’s coalition of several organizations, such as the Association québécoise des Nord-Africains pour la laïcité (AQNAL, Quebec Association of North-Africans for Secularism), Intellectuels pour la laïcité (IPL, Intellectuels for Secularism), Laïcité capitale nationale (LCN, National Capital Secularism), the Collectif citoyen pour l’égalité et la laïcité (Cciel, Citizen Collective for Equality and Secularism), Libres penseurs athées (LPA, Atheist Freethinkers), Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ, Quebec Secular Movement), Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois (MNQ, Natioal Movement of Quebecers), Pour les droits des femmes du Québec (PDF Québec, For the Rights of Women of Quebec), Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre (SPQ libre, Unionists and Progressives for a Free Quebec), etc.