Law 21 suffered its last heavy fire from its opponents in order to have it invalidated Tuesday morning, while the pleadings ended. The decision, which is eagerly awaited, will not be known until the end of February 2021.
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“I will do the best of my weak capacities to render judgment as quickly as possible,” said judge Marc-André Blanchard with a tongue-in-cheek tone. These are extremely delicate issues, fundamental for our society. The court understood this situation. ”
The magistrate said that it was not possible to determine a date when he will make his verdict known, but that it would not go before the end of February 2021. The trial began on November 2.
On Monday, the arguments of the defendants of the State Secularism Act were finished to be presented.
Tuesday, it was the right of reply of the lawyers of the groups claiming that it be reversed, before the judge takes the case under advisement.
In turn, they marched in order to refute certain aspects put forward in the last days by the Attorney General of Quebec, or the Mouvement laïque québécois and the group For the rights of women in Quebec who were in favor of the legislation.
Derailment with the derogation clause?
Several lawyers against the law on secularism have worried about the use of the notwithstanding clause, better known as the notwithstanding clause, and the slippages to which it could lead.
It was used by Quebec for the law on secularism, with the aim of preventing its validity from being challenged on the grounds that it would violate rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charters of rights.
“Why adopt a charter and why refer to inalienable rights, if they can be set aside to avoid judicial review [en utilisant la clause nonobstant]», Underlined Me Theodore Goloff, representing the Lord Reading Law Association, which brings together Jewish jurists from Quebec.
“What the Attorney General’s reasoning implies is that as soon as the legislature uses [la clause dérogatoire]is that he can no longer be wrong. There must be a line that is drawn, in a context where there would be no safeguard for the protection of a vulnerable religious minority, ”added later Me Rémi Bourget, lawyer for the Autonomous Federation of education.
A law that has consequences
The impacts of Law 21 on religious minorities were also reminded to the judge to take them into account in his analysis.
“This law punishes people who practice their faith. There are penalties, there are consequences for breaking the standard established by this rule. These are not neutral effects, ”said Olga Redko, who represents the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the plaintiff Ichrak Nourel Hak.
“The person wearing a religious symbol invokes their freedom of religion as a shield against demands that they withdraw it. She doesn’t ask that her freedom be respected. She certainly does not say that people should adopt her religious practice or her religious views. The only thing she asks is to respect her freedom to be different, ”Me Azim Hussain, representing the Legal Committee of Coalition Inclusion Québec.