Quebec’s top court rules to uphold ban on religious symbols in workplace

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Quebec Court of Appeal building on Notre-Dame Street in Old Montreal. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Bill 21 prohibits “certain persons from wearing religious symbols while exercising their functions” and says “under the bill, personnel members of a body must exercise their functions with their face uncovered.”

 The Quebec Superior Court ruled last week to uphold a controversial bill that restricts most civil servants from wearing religious symbols, including such as yarmulkes, crucifixes and hijabs, while at work.

Bill 21 prohibits “certain persons from wearing religious symbols while exercising their functions” and says “under the bill, personnel members of a body must exercise their functions with their face uncovered.”

“It is important that the paramountcy of state laicity be enshrined in Québec’s legal order,” the legislation also states, adding that “a stricter duty of restraint regarding religious matters should be established for persons exercising certain functions, resulting in their being prohibited from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions.”

The law, passed by the province’s Coalition Avenir Québec government in June 2019, does not apply to educators in Quebec’s English-language school boards since they hold special rights over education under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, reported ReutersQuebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the court’s ruling will be appealed to ensure that the restrictions apply to all.

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