Skip to main content

It took less than three weeks for the inevitable to happen.

Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Montreal woman who wears a niqab, this week filed a court challenge on the constitutionality of Quebec's Bill 62. There is every chance it will succeed, because the recently-adopted law, which bans face-coverings in the provision and reception of public services, flagrantly violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee of freedom of religion, and does so for no good reason. The sooner a judge strikes the law down, in whole or in part, the better.

Unfortunately, that won't be the end of it. Bill 62 is a solution in search of a problem, but with a provincial election a year away, the political imperatives that led the ruling Liberal party to pass it will not fade quietly.

On the bright side, at least the sovereigntist Parti Québécois is ripping itself apart at the seams.

After Bill 62 passed, PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée promised that his party, the province's official opposition, would put forward a bill calling for even tougher rules against religious symbols.

He did this without warning his caucus and, according to La Presse, for this was bombarded with criticism at a subsequent meeting. He was reminded by his members that a leader's obligation is to consult – and that he's led his party to a historical low of 20 per cent in the polls.

Mr. Lisée, who made his political bones as a strategist, immediately took the route of least resistance. He caved, and dropped the whole idea until some time next year. That, predictably, prompted a backlash among some party hardliners.

On Wednesday, former PQ minister and current talking head Bernard Drainville, the father of the party's odious Charter of Values, reported hearing whispers that Mr. Lisée may not survive the winter.

Cue the parade of Péquistes who offered some version of former finance minister Nicolas Marceau's words, that "Mr. Lisée remains firmly in the saddle and will be the leader in 2018." As Margaret Thatcher once said about being powerful, if you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

No, Quebec is nowhere near finished with its debate over religious accommodation and the acceptability of Muslim women's head dress. However, the good news is measures like Bill 62 may be more popular in theory than in practice, and that could help to consign Quebec sovereignty's standard-bearer of the past half-century to the political slag-pile.

So there's that.