Skip to main content

Canada People can call police if secular dress code not adhered to, Quebec Public Security Minister says

Quebec Deputy premier and Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault responds to the Opposition during question period on Dec. 4, 2018 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s Deputy Premier says citizens who see municipalities or school boards failing to apply the province’s proposed secular dress code can call the police to have the law enforced.

Provincial Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters at the Quebec National Assembly that it is the job of the police to enforce the law, and the province’s proposed ban on wearing religious symbols in some public service jobs would be no different. “The law is the law,” Ms. Guilbault said. “People can advise police services, like they do to have any other law applied. The law is the law.” She later clarified that she is confident officials will obey the law.

Several Montreal-area municipalities and school boards say they would not enforce a ban on religiously symbolic garments such as the turban, kippa, hijab and crucifix from being worn by people in positions of authority, including teachers and police officers.

Story continues below advertisement

The brewing resistance led to questions on Tuesday about how the government could enforce the law, which would contain no punitive measures. The Public Security Minister, the Justice Minister and Premier François Legault each gave different answers.

Early in the day, Justice Minister Sonia LeBel said if a school board or city refuses to enforce the law, the province could obtain a court injunction to force compliance. Disobeying an injunction could lead to contempt of court charges, she said, while stressing this is not her preferred avenue. “I’m very confident once the law is adopted, the mayors and school board commissioners … I’m confident there will be no civil disobedience,” she said.

Mr. Legault later told reporters some of his rookie cabinet ministers were getting carried away answering hypothetical questions. “We hope we won’t have to take steps to force people to respect the law. I won’t say what those steps could be,” Mr. Legault said. “We shouldn’t be talking about that. Quebeckers know there are means to force respect for the law.”

The CAQ’s law would require civil servants to deliver services with faces uncovered, and citizens to uncover for identification purposes. It also invokes the notwithstanding clause, a provision that would protect it from most avenues of legal challenge.

Most of the people who would be affected are Muslim teachers who wear headscarves. The English Montreal School Board was among the first public organizations to say it would not abide by the law. Other boards and several municipalities, particularly on the west side of Montreal Island, where anglophones and immigrant communities predominate, joined in.

Opinion: Religious-symbols ban is an expression – and a betrayal – of Quebec’s values

Opinion: As Quebec tables religious-symbol ban, the rest of Canada should stay zen

Opinion: The Quebec government’s secularism bill stinks to high heaven

Quebec human-rights lawyer Julius Grey added fuel on Tuesday in an article published in the Montreal Gazette that said school boards and municipalities could use civil disobedience to fight laws that run contrary to conscience.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Grey mentioned as examples the Canadian jurors who refused to apply abortion laws, and Americans who resisted the Vietnam War and segregation. Many people saw Mr. Grey’s words as advocating civil disobedience and as comparing the dress code to segregation and war, provoking the government reaction.

In an interview later on Tuesday, Mr. Grey said he was simply explaining the legal background to civil disobedience, and it is too early to advocate such acts. However, conscience may be the last defence, he said. “If the government hadn’t moved to cut off court contestations, everyone would just be saying, ‘We’ll see you in court,’” Mr. Grey said. “When there is no other remedy, disobedience in certain, strict conditions is justified. But it has to be proportionate, has to be fair.”

The government will hold hearings on the draft law in mid-May and try to pass it by June 15.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
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

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter