When the Quebec government tells English schools they cannot hire women wearing the hijab, it is violating the rights of the English-speaking minority to run its educational institutions, a lawyer pleaded Tuesday at the Secularism Act trial. of State.
This law, known as “Bill 21” before its adoption, notably prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by certain State employees when they are in the exercise of their functions, including police officers and school teachers. primary and secondary education.
Pleadings began on Monday in this case.
For this second day, well-known lawyer Julius Gray spoke on behalf of his clients, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Quebec Community Groups Network. They are challenging the law.
He thus invoked section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right of the English-speaking minority to be educated in this language. Over time, jurisprudence has interpreted this right as giving management power to English schools.
This includes the right to hire as teachers whoever they want, he argued, including those who wear religious symbols.
In passing its law, the Caquista government used the notwithstanding clause (also known as the notwithstanding clause) to override certain rights protected by the Charter, such as freedom of religion. He thus wanted to ensure that the Secularism Law would not be challenged on this basis.
But we cannot use the notwithstanding clause to derogate from Article 23, which leaves this weapon to the opponents of the law.
Me Gray took the argument further, explaining that section 23 is necessary for the protection and preservation of the language and culture of the English-speaking minority in Quebec.
And in this culture of the English-speaking community, there is the protection of cultural minorities, continued the prosecutor.
He also used section 28 of the Charter which provides for gender equality – another provision that cannot be overruled by the notwithstanding clause. “A fundamental principle”, hammered Me Gray.
And to say that this law (on the secularism of the state) frees women, as some have argued, that amounts to judging this religion, he added.
Judge Marc-André Blanchard who is presiding over this case has set aside a total of 14 days to hear the pleadings.