Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A 'no bill 21' button and a Liberal button.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s secularism law is so contrary to the essence of the Canadian Constitution it’s as if the provincial government unilaterally amended it, the lawyer for a woman challenging the law argued Monday.

Lawyers representing individuals and groups seeking to have the law struck down began their closing arguments at the Montreal courthouse.

The law, known as Bill 21, bans public sector workers deemed to be in positions of authority, including police officers and teachers, from wearing religious symbols while on the job.

Story continues below advertisement

David Grossman, who represents Ichrak Nourel Hak, a teacher who wears a hijab, was the first to deliver his arguments. During the trial, Nourel Hak said that the law caused her and others to feel excluded from Quebec society.

Grossman explained that the Constitution is not just a series of articles, but that it has an overall structure, and one of the underpinning principles is the possibility for everyone to participate equally in society.

Thus, if a provincial government wants to “modify the architecture of the Canadian Constitution,” it must follow the amendment procedure, which it can’t do alone, he said.

Otherwise, the next government of Quebec could decide that all teachers must be Sikhs, or exclude women from the public service or force all public servants to pray to the Christian god every morning with an “ordinary law, without amending the Constitution.”

The case is particularly complicated because the Quebec government invoked the notwithstanding clause when adopting the secularism law, overriding certain rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That prevented opponents of the law from claiming discrimination and arguing that the law violates their right to equality.

The challengers are attempting to get around this difficulty by arguing that the law violates other articles and principles of the charter that are not shielded by the notwithstanding clause.

The presiding judge, Marc-Andre Blanchard of Quebec Superior Court, has scheduled 14 days to hear arguments from both sides.

Story continues below advertisement

The trial began Nov. 2. Both those challenging the law and its supporters called witnesses, including a number of experts.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies