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Demonstrators stand outside the courthouse on the first day of the constitutional challenge to Bill 21, which bans public workers in positions of "authority" from wearing religious symbols, before the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government does not believe its secularism law violates freedom of religion, but rather it serves to frame it, a lawyer argued today.

It was the turn of those defending the law known as Bill 21 to begin delivering final arguments in a legal challenge at the Montreal courthouse.

Lawyers representing the Quebec government argued the ban on religious symbols is very specific and doesn’t infringe on people’s right to practise their religion outside the workplace.

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The law, known as Bill 21, forbids the wearing of religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and hijabs for employees of the state deemed to be in positions of authority, including police officers and teachers.

Several groups are contesting the law from different angles in the current trial, but they are limited because Bill 21 invokes the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause, shielding it from most charter challenges.

Those challenging have said the law, adopted in July 2019, is discriminatory against religious minorities, in particular Muslim women.

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