AFT Bulletin, 2020-11-10

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Courtroom Log of Hak versus AGQ: Week 1

Bill 21 Before the Courts
Summary of the first week, 2nd – 6th November 2020
Quebec Superior Court

The first week of legal proceedings of the case Hak versus Attorney-General of Quebec (AGQ), dossier #500-17-108353-197, has drawn to an end in Quebec Superior Court at the Montreal Court House. Bill 21 is being contested by some eighteen opponents (individuals and organizations) who are attempting to have this secular legislation repealed.

In the opposite camp, in support of Bill 21 and secularism, we have of course the Province of Quebec, represented by its Attorney-General, as well as three intervenors: the Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ, Quebec Secular Movement), the organization Pour les droits de femmes du Québec (PDF-Q, For Women’s Rights, Quebec) and finally, ourselves Atheist Freethinkers (AFT, also known as LPA in French). We are supported in our efforts by our friends of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL, Alliance for Secularism), a coalition in which we participate.


To sum things up succinctly, secularism was hardly even mentioned during this week’s proceedings. The one exception was the testimony of Jocelyn Maclure—an expert for the English Montreal School Board (EMSB)—who briefly explained the difference between so-called open secularism and republican secularism, Bill 21 being closer to the latter, but then apparently took a position in favour of the former without really explaining the reasons for his choice. Most of the expert testimonies were greatly compromised by a number of tacit assumptions and, as a result, had little or no relevance for Bill 21. In fact, the most salient theme of this week was what was not discussed.

We can recognize at least five major currents among the various testimonies given this week:

  1. Rejection of the idea that a religious symbol can be removed when going to work and the implicit assumption that it the State that must accommodate the believer, not the other way around.
  2. An overwhelming concern for how government measures are perceived, especially by those religious minorities who may feel targetted, rather than for the real actions of those measures.
  3. An overwhelming emphasis on what a religious symbol means to the believer wearing it, rather than on how it may be perceived by others or on the symbol’s objective signification. Ignoring the latter results in an overly narrow comprehension of the concept of proselytism.
  4. A very wide, indeed even false, definition of the concept of prejudice.
  5. Conflation of different types of minority groups, ignoring the characteristics which make racial, religious, sexual orientation or other types of groups qualitatively distinct from each other—thus ignoring the particular characteristics of religious identity.

Read the full article

AFT On-line Event
Saturday 14th November 2020 at 2 pm

Talk by Pierre CLOUTIER LL.M.

“What is at Stake with Quebec’s State Secularism Law, Bill 21, from a Legal Perspective”

Register for the AFT event, Nov. 14, 2020

Language : French

Technology : Zoom

The talk will be followed by a period of questions and discussion.
The Zoom link will be provided to those registered.

Open to all. Free.
All participants must use a video camera and show their face throughout the meeting.

Fundraising Campaign
for our court intervention

Donate to our Legal Fund

Coming Soon

2nd On-Line Talk (in French)
by Hamou IGGUI

Register for the AFT Event
of Dec. 12, 2020

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