Teachers union joins bid to have Supreme Court rule on Quebec religious symbols ban

MONTREAL — A major Quebec teachers union says it will follow the lead of the English Montreal School Board and seek to challenge the province’s secularism law before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, or FAE, says in a statement today that in particular it opposes the Quebec government’s use of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield the law from Charter challenges.

The law adopted in 2019 and known as Bill 21 bans many public sector employees, including teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious symbols at work, which critics say infringes on their rights.

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the law in a ruling in February, but the English Montreal School Board said this month it will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, and the federal government has indicated it would participate if a challenge is heard by the high court.

The FAE says it has a duty to defend the fundamental rights of its members, adding that it is concerned the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights are being distorted by the "excessive use" of the notwithstanding clause by legislatures.

The federation represents about 66,500 teachers in various regions of the province, including teachers at Montreal’s main French−language school board.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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