Posts Tagged ‘La Presse’

Conflicting views on proposed secular charter in Canada

February 8, 2014

Although not directly related to human rights defenders, I thought this article interesting because two top judges taken such openly opposing views. Also interesting to note – at least in this short piece – is the absence of references to international case law on the same topic e.g. by the European Court on Human Rights, which has pronounced itself on Turkey and France:

“Two former Supreme Court of Canada justices delivered conflicting views on Friday on whether Quebec’s proposed secular charter would hold up in court. Louise Arbour, a member of Canada’s highest court from 1999 to 2004, wrote in a letter to Montreal La Presse she firmly believes the Parti Quebecois government’s proposed charter violates the right to freedom of religion. Arbour, who also served as the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote that the prohibition of wearing so-called conspicuous religious symbols will mainly target Muslim women who wear a head scarf. “It is particularly odious to make women, who are already marginalized, pay the price,” Arbour wrote. “Women, for whom access to employment is a key factor for their autonomy and integration. “Meanwhile in Quebec City, Claire LHeureux-Dube offered her unconditional support for the proposed charter during hearings at the legislature. The former justice said the charter should withstand any court challenge. And if necessary, the government could use the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she added. LHeureux-Dube, a Supreme Court justice between 1987 and 2002, said she sees no discrimination in the most controversial aspect of the proposed charter — a ban on state employees from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. The proposed legislation would ban public-sector employees, including teachers and daycare workers, from displaying or wearing religious symbols at work. It would also forbid public employees from wearing other visible religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and bigger-than-average crucifixes. LHeureux Dube said the wearing of religious symbols is not a fundamental right. And, she adds, no right is absolute.  Religious symbols “are part of the display of religious beliefs and not the practice of a religion,” LHeureux-Dube said. She finds it perfectly reasonable for the state to impose restrictions on its employees, comparing it to the state’s restriction on political expression. LHeureux-Dube also took the opportunity to lash out at Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, accusing him of breaking from what she described as his past position as a defender of secularism and women’s rights. She expressed dismay the party had drifted away from its roots. She noted the Liberals frequently battled with the Roman Catholic Church, notably during the right to vote for women in 1940. “I wonder how one can deny that great tradition of secularism,” she said….” 

via mysask.com – News.