Not Even Close

I said I would stop writing about the Québec Charter of Values for a while, but I’ll break that promise already, albeit only to report that a number of law professors have given their views on it in the last couple days. Their verdict is almost unanimous: the proposed Charter’s key part, the prohibition on state employees wearing “conspicuous” religious symbol is certainly unconstitutional.

First, there is this discussion in the Globe. Ten of the eleven participants (mostly professors, but also a couple of barristers) argue that the proposed Charter is unconstitutional. One of them goes so far as to say that “[t]he only question is how polite the court will be in stating so.” The lone dissenting voice is that of Daniel Turp, who these days teaches constitutional law at Université de Montréal. However, although the Globe does not say this, prof. Turp is a partisan ― he is both a former Bloc Québécois MP and and a former PQ member of Québec’s legislature. Prof. Turp is also rather fond of far-fetched constitutional arguments. His comments, which cite a number of decisions of the European Court of Human rights, but none of the Supreme Court of Canada, just aren’t persuasive.

And second, there is this op-ed by a distinguished group of law professors in the Journal de Montréal, arguing that it is unclear what purpose the ban on religious symbols serves or how it is connected to that purpose, and that it is, in any event, disproportionate. It “very unlikely” that it would be upheld by the courts.

My own conclusion, which I presented here, is exactly the same. The ban on religious symbols is unconstitutional. It’s not even close.

Author: Leonid Sirota

Law nerd. I teach public law at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom. I studied law at McGill, clerked at the Federal Court of Canada, and did graduate work at the NYU School of Law. I then taught in New Zealand before taking up my current position at Reading.

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