Quebec government to table bill extending notwithstanding clause for secularism law

QUEBEC — The Quebec government will table a bill Thursday aimed at ensuring the province’s secularism law — known as Bill 21 — remains shielded from potential Charter challenges.

François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government plans to renew for another five years the use of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause that protects the law from legal challenges over violations of fundamental freedoms.

Bill 21 was passed in June 2019 and prohibits public servants deemed to be in positions of authority — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Despite the use of the clause, the law is being contested on multiple fronts in the courts.

Legault’s majority government, which has described the law as reasonable, has the support of the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire for the extension of the notwithstanding clause, while the official Opposition Liberals are opposed.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that the notwithstanding clause is valid for five years, after which time a government would have to renew it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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