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Quebec forced to defend religious symbols law in court | Power & Politics



québec's secular legislation commonly known as bill 21 is being challenged in court the bill passed over a month ago it bans public employees from wearing religious symbols and requires all citizens to uncover their faces when receiving government services the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian civil liberties Association among others are behind the court challenge the sticky issue with the law is that it invokes the notwithstanding Clause which allows governments to essentially override parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so what are the implications for Francois lagos government if the law is even temporarily suspended and what are the repercussions if the law stands it's time for the power panel in Vancouver former Conservative cabinet ministers Stockwell day joins us political commentator and columnist Tiffany Gooch is with us from Toronto and here with me in studio political commentator and former NDP MP frost waves but on height I love you nice to see you front Frost was I'm gonna start with you not only do you reside in Quebec with your Elsi lawyer so what do you think the chances of these legal challenges succeeding are I I'm good luck to them but the fact that the government this time because other governments liberal governments in Quebec tried to introduce different type of legislations it's a topic that's been dividing a lot of Quebecers for a long long time we had a big Commission we shall tailor to try to resolve the matter and see how we could venture into that whole situation we have to remember that since the 1960's with the quiet revolution the Quebec government has tended to try to distance itself from religion not removing freedom of religion freedom of religion people is still alive and kicking in Quebec everybody still has the right to believe in whatever religion that they believe what Bill 21 is doing is definitely from what you described the only thing I would add is for people in authority it's not all public service only Church its detractors prosecutors judges policemen because the concept is that these functions should have some type of aura of neutrality so that's the basis and that was pretty much the common denominator except for the teachers that was agreed upon following the the Commission but the government this time Lagoo government didn't take a chance of as she decided that they would use the notwithstanding Clause because it is an infringement we have to be realistic because it is limiting something but the charter of right in Canada permits that with section 1 section 33 section 1 permits you to restrict section 33 permits you to use for five years and notwithstanding Clause they also gave a grandfather right so people who are already in the system teachers who are already wearing some religious symbol can still do so I I would have lots to say on that one but I will limit my intervention to say that that is the case with the notwithstanding I don't think they personally that they stand a chance in court with with the exercise of that notwithstanding let me get if you guys don't mind a quick comment from each of you Tiffany and Stockwell we just have national chief bail guard standing by he has to catch the choppers so I want to do that interview and will of course continue the discussion but I do want to get each of you in first before we head over there Tiffany what about you what do you think yeah so I think that it was always clear to us from the moments that this was being debated when it passed that that there were specific groups that were going to be disproportionately negatively impacted and we saw that this was clearly so for a young Muslim woman that were going into teaching in particular and that was a part of the story that really stuck and I think that this is this is their two fights taking place right now of course there's the actual challenge in the court but there's another piece on making sure that public opinion is able to continue to understand the ramifications of this bill okay I apologize Stockwell I'm very sorry I will get to you in a second we just have to jump quickly over to national chief bellegarde he's apparently about to mrs. mrs. chopper out of big rivers nation i rudely cut you off because national chief bellegarde was about to leave on a helicopter he had to get out of the the meeting there so we had to go to that interview but we had been talking about bill 21 which is the secular legislation out of Quebec controversial to a degree there have been a lot of legal challenges or a legal challenge launched formally today and we were just discussing some of the implications both political and otherwise of that Tiffany you had just spoken stock while I was I was heading over to you so what do you what do you think about the possibility of this legal challenge and and more largely the political implications both provincially for Quebec but federally sure all great questions well Quebec certainly has the right to bring in this type of legislation I also support the use of notwithstanding Clause in the constitutional guidelines where it can be used and I also have the right to say I completely and utterly disagree with that piece of legislation it's not in my province but as a Canadian I can say I think it's just the terrible terrible legislation it's pitting people one against another it's based on a common misunderstanding of what separation of church and state means people today many of them in government think that means there can be no permission of any kind of religious expression that's not the genesis of that particular phrase that phrase was used when when a government was trying to impose a certain denomination upon all the people in that jurisdiction and that led to this this quite right delineation saying governments cannot should not be allowed to impose one religion above the other but it's never been meant it was never intended any way to mean there can be no religious expression as long as you're recognizing people's rights so this this is a terrible thing that has happened it's going to result in all kinds of problems we just saw today we're Malala yousafzai and excuse me if I pronounced her name wrongly last name honorary Canadian citizen Nobel Prize winner shot by the Taliban and Afghanistan girl shot by the Taliban when she was 15 for standing up for rights and the Quebec Education Minister saying she would never be allowed to come into a school in Quebec and encourage other girls or other students but the importance of standing up for what you believe that's the kind of tragic consequence that this very bad legislation brings and I completely hope it loses in court as much as I love the province of Quebec okay I want to bring in France for a second but I do want to just highlight what you were talking about when it comes to Quebec's Education Minister what happened was the minister was getting a lot of blowback over a photo that he initially posted on social media I believe we have that of himself an Malala who's now a 21 as you mentioned Stockwell she was 15 she was shot by the Taliban she's a voracious defense defendant of women getting an education and especially in her country and elsewhere throughout the world many people on Twitter ended up pointing out the disconnect between the minister and and bill 21 some called it hypocritical and then he was asked if she could teach if if she if she were in Quebec and he said she could if she removed her headscarf and I believe I just want to play a clip I think we have it of Premier Lugo who was asked the same thing and he essentially supported his education ministers position let's take a listen if we have that clip I think it's on its way she can teach in Quebec if she accepts to remove a religious sign that's the decision we took can it's supported by the vast majority Quebecers if I may just say a few things first of all there's nothing wrong with the Minister with Minister Hobart was in as Minister of Education in France by the way who's got laws that will go way deeper than what Quebec just adopted but that and that didn't impeach Malala too to be there to present her her case and her cause and I think we are all proud of what that that young woman stood for and I think that's what the Minister was referring to by the fact that she's been promoting not religious belief she's been promoting the right of women of young girls to to get school to go to have the right to get an education that's the case of her law of her life and that's exactly what minister of ABARES is all about so after that yes of course journalists being what they are right for rightfully so asked him would she be entitled to because she's wearing a headscarf so you have to be consequent with yourself so it's not removing any value of anybody and we could argue til death do us part well you're again for good so for all type of freedom and and rights I've fought for this all my life but at the same time I strongly believe that you have to sometimes just have a certain certain legislation just to look at freedom of expression you have I have to dress up when I go in court I hate it but I have to there's a code so it's impeaching might my right of expression my freedom of expression as long as it's not totally unreasonable and it permits the people to continue to believe in what they believe but when you're exercising a job in a position of authority where you could influence other people where you could have hands on your definition of unreasonable exactly exactly but they didn't take a chance and I think they're right because I do think that it was pushing it a bit too far but it's just since I think in five years they'll review it all and realize that it was a big mountain for nothing and maybe it's not needed no more Tiffany and I take I take Francis's point around you know the the nature of the way that that unfolded with the Education Minister but there was a certain irony pointed out with that tweet that I think that's why it resonated so much right like this idea that someone who's such a huge defendant of Education for girls couldn't actually teach the way that she exists in in Quebec right now I think there was a real moment than that more people were becoming more climatized to the fact that this legislation passed you know there's different moments when legislation is going through that there can be big uprisings and I think we saw a lot of protests during the debating of it when it passed it's sort of it went away a little bit and as these court challenges come through I'm hopeful that this only ramps up that more people are becoming aware of it are thinking about the ways within which they can be a part of it that more legal minds are coming together to figure out ways to combat it but also that we don't only see this as a legal issue and we're able to understand the public opinion piece to this as well and that more people that are outraged like myself are able to find the ways that they're going to be a part of this perhaps protests that have those wearing headscarves for for decorative purposes to make it and difficult to to know the difference between those that are using it for religious purposes III think that they were going to see and I hope that we see more protests and a lot more opposition from Canadians and internationally to this because it is an outrage all right hi I'm Vasa Capello host of power in politics see more of our show by subscribing to the CBC news channel or click the link for another video thanks for watching

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