16 April 2015

Quebec Bill 78: CCLA denounces drastic, broad infringements of fundamental constitutional rights

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has severe concerns about the constitutional validity of Bill 78, which was passed by the Quebec National Assembly on May 18, 2012. The CCLA agrees that access to education and ensuring that instruction in schools, CEGEPs and universities is open and available for those who want to attend are pressing and substantial societal interests. Our concerns are not directed at this goal, but rather the means that the Quebec government has chosen to pursue it. Bill 78 drastically limits freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly rights in Quebec.  It puts in place a number of prohibitions that are at best tenuously linked with the goal of ensuring access to postsecondary education. Even those provisions that do directly address access to educational institutions are frequently overly broad, vague and discretionary.The Bill, for example, imposes very broad prior notification requirements that would apply to all demonstrations, regardless of their connection to student protests or proximity to educational institutions. Bill 78 requires organizers of any demonstration involving 50 or more people to provide an eight-hour written notice to the police specifying the time, duration, venue and route of the demonstration. These obligations would even be imposed on gatherings taking place on private property, so long as the location is “publicly accessible.”  The police will have the power to unilaterally decide the proposed route or venue poses a serious risk for public security, and require the organizers to submit a new plan.These prior notification requirements are broad, vague and in most applications will have no rational connection to ensuring access to postsecondary institutions. There is no definition of a “demonstration,” leaving significant leeway to police and government officials to determine when the prior notification scheme will or will not apply. Any individual organizer who fails to provide notification to the police or does not “employ appropriate means” to make sure the demonstration follows the approved plan may be fined between $7000 and $35,000 per day; if it is a group that has organized the demonstration, the fine can be between $25,000 and $125,000. The onerous notice requirement, the lack of clarity in the obligations of the organizers, as well as the recourse to penal sanctions will fetter the fundamental freedom of all those within Quebec to organize peaceful assemblies ...

Saguenay right-to-pray ruling: What it means for religious freedom in politics - Montreal - CBC News

Saguenay right-to-pray ruling: What it means for religious freedom in politics - Montreal - CBC News

CCLA at Supreme Court on City of Saguenay Freedom of Religion Case

CCLA at Supreme Court on Important Freedom of Religion Case « Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener in the case of Mouvement laïque québécois, et al. v. City of Saguenay, et al. The
appeal heard by the Court on October 14, 2014, centres on whether the
recital of a prayer at the beginning of public city council meetings
violates provisions of the Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms and, in particular, whether rights to equality and freedom of religion, are unjustifiably infringed.
Mr. Simoneau, a non-religious citizen of the respondent
City of Saguenay attended the meetings of the municipal council. A
municipal by-law allowed council members to stand and say a prayer at
the start of council proceedings if they wished. Mr. Simoneau and the
Mouvement laïque québécois filed an application against the City and its
mayor with the province’s human rights tribunal alleging that they had
violated Mr. Simoneau’s freedom of conscience and religion and his right
to respect for his dignity (ss. 3, 4, 10, 11 and 15 of the Charter).
They asked that the recitation of the prayer cease and that religious
symbols be removed from the proceedings rooms. The tribunal allowed Mr.
Simoneau’s application in part, but the Court of Appeal set aside the
decision on the ground that the content of the prayer did not violate
the duty of neutrality imposed on the City, and that even if the
recitation of the prayer interfered with Mr. Simoneau’s moral values,
the interference was trivial or insubstantial in the circumstances.
The CCLA’s position in the case is that State-sponsored
religious coercion, in the form of the recital of a religious prayer at
public city council meetings, violates the right to equality and freedom
of religion and conscience, and that these violations cannot be
justified under the either the Quebec or Canadian Charters.  There can
be no justification for state compulsion in matters of belief, and the
context of the particular case pointed to the bylaw’s clearly religious
purpose and effect.

Don Macpherson: Stop calling Quebec student protests 'strikes,' because they're not


A bargaining unit can’t go on strike without the consent of a majority of its members participating in a vote. All its members are eligible to participate, and they must be given at least 48 hours’ notice of the vote. And the vote must be held by secret ballot, not a show of hands ...

They’re closer to boycotts, although a boycott usually doesn’t mean refusing to accept a service for which you’ve already paid. And participation in a boycott is, and should remain, voluntary.

Students have the absolute right to boycott their classes, and to try to persuade others to do so. But nobody has the right, legal or moral, to interfere with anybody who wants to receive a public service to which he or she is entitled.

Line between religious heritage and discrimination unclear despite ruling against city council prayer


By saying “not all” are in breach of the duty of neutrality, the implication is that many are. Gascon goes on to quote favourably a passage from the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report on religious accommodation: “(We) must avoid maintaining practices that in point of fact identify the state with a religion, usually that of the majority, simply because they now seem to have only heritage value.”
And yet when the court had an opening to make a statement about two such symbols — the crucifix and the statue of Jesus with a glowing red heart found in two locations where Saguenay council meets — it declined. The Court of Appeal had declared the symbols were mere historical artifacts stripped of their religious meaning for most residents. The Supreme Court dodged the question by finding that the human-rights tribunal that originally heard the case and ordered the removal of the crucifix and Sacred Heart statue had no jurisdiction to consider the symbols.

15 April 2015

Speaker's Corner: Quebec judge’s ban on hijab in courtroom a judicial fiasco


El-Alloul, a naturalized Canadian who proudly wore her hijab before another judge at her citizenship ceremony years ago, has stated that what happened before Marengo made her “feel afraid” and that she no longer “feels Canadian.” ...

That the proximate justification for denying access related to El-Alloul’s religiously ordained article of clothing was ironic in more ways than one. The coat of arms of the Court of Quebec actually bears a Tudor crown clearly adorned with two Christian crucifixes, and the Quebec flag offers a more than conspicuous display of the same religious symbol for anyone who cares to see it ...

Finally, it would be hard to argue, particularly in view of the equality rights codified in s. 15, that allowing El-Alloul to petition a court of law for the early return of her impounded vehicle while wearing her hijab would harm any other person’s rights in a manner inconsistent with the Charter ...


Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

Mayor Jean Tremblay of Saguenay argued reciting prayer respects Quebec’s Catholic heritage

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.
In a unanimous decision today, the country's top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.
The ruling puts an end to a eight-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.

11 April 2015

Don Macpherson: With Creolegate, the OQLF appears to be exceeding its authority


After the “Pastagate” affair made Quebec a global laughingstock in February, the Marois government determined that the “language police” must never again expose Quebec and its language law to such ridicule.
It made the Office québécois de la langue française find an excuse to cancel its order to a Montreal restaurant to add French translations to the Italian names of dishes on its menu.
It sacked the head of the OQLF, Louise Marchand.
And, above all, it told the OQLF to show more discernment in handling complaints.

Pastagate Pronouncement

I can 'respect' the requirement for a French translation of menus under Quebec's Bill 101..

But if a person dining in an Italian restuarant needs a translation of the word 'pasta', perhaps they would be better dining at home.

03 April 2015

Chris Selley: Charles Taylor … niqab defender?


Nor was there anything disreputable about Messrs. Bouchard and Taylor’s undertaking, which was to travel around the province and listen to Quebecers of all stripes vent their various cultural angsts, from the very theoretically legitimate (there’s a reason people would object to cops wearing niqabs) to the thoroughly bizarre (the mortal threat of unlabelled halal chicken). You can’t sneer such worries away, much as urban elites try. The Bouchard-Taylor report is in the main a sober call for calm and unity, an assurance that Quebec is not reasonably accommodating itself toward theocracy. And while forcing agents of the state to wear a non-religious uniform might run afoul of the Supreme Court — which settled turban-wearing cops a quarter-century ago — it’s not inherently outrageous ... 
But they must have known, from their observations and their travels, that Quebecers tend to be less resolutely secular than preferentially secular — particularly suspicious of Islam and particularly respectful of ostensibly “cultural” Christianity. Pauline Marois epitomized a very popular version of secularism that leaves in place a crucifix hanging over the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly that was installed in 1936 by noted non-secularist premier Maurice Duplessis. Ms. Marois’ “values charter” at least had the decency to target allreligious symbols in the public sector; now Premier Philippe Couillard, channelling Mr. Harper, proposes to ban both giving and receiving public services with a covered face because “certain principles have to be clarified;” because “I think this is a line in the sand for many Quebecers and Canadians.” How convenient that it only affects the world’s least popular religion! ...
Of course, leaving those insecurities alone more or less entirely worked out rather well for Canadian politics for a very long time. That’s a pretty good option, too.

Pégida Québec

About Pégida Québec
from Facebook:
Regroupement Québécois contre la radicalisation, l'intégrisme et la Charia.


After a failed attempt to stage an inaugural demonstration [29 MAR 15] weekend in Montreal,
a far-right, anti-immigrant group from Europe, cancelled a second event scheduled for [03 APR 15] – citing safety concerns.
The first rally organized by PEGIDA in Montreal was attended by just a handful of people [on SAT 28 MAR 15]. After hundreds of anti-PEGIDA demonstrators showed up to oppose them, they cancelled their march.
In a post on its Facebook page, the group – an offshoot of a much larger European movement – announced that the decision to call off the second rally, in an area of the city where many Muslims live and work, was made in response to a violent confrontation that occurred over the weekend [of 28/29 MAR 15] outside CEGEP Maisonneuve.

A small group of pro-secularism protesters linked to the Rassemblement pour la laïcité showed up at the school on Sunday [29 MAR 15] to demonstrate against Muslim radicalization, and were greeted by another group of anti-racism protesters. At least one physical confrontation ensued, with wooden picket signs used as weapons. One person was arrested.

“While only twenty protesters showed up [at the school], they were greeted by opponents calling them pro-[Charter of Quebecois Values] protesters, racists and fascists,” the PEGIDA administrators wrote on their Facebook page, adding that their planned event was promptly cancelled “in order to protect all supporters of our movement.”