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Quebec Teachers Are Suing Their Government Over Its "Unconstitutional" Bill 21

The province is being taken to court over the secularism law.

Teachers are taking a stand. Quebec's Bill 21 is facing legal action from teachers. An organization representing teachers in Quebec is taking the provincial government to court because of the controversial bill.

According to The Canadian Press, a federation representing 45,000 teachers in Quebec is suing the government over Bill 21, accusing the province of violating the rights of teachers across Quebec.

The controversial Bill 21 became law in Quebec in June 2019 after it was introduced in March so public workers in the province are banned from wearing religious symbols while on the job.

Sylvain Mallette, president of Federation autonome de l'enseignement, told The Canadian Press that his organization filed the lawsuit because the Quebec government is "weakening the rule of law."

Mallette stated that 75% of the federation's members are women and they are disproportionately affected by Bill 21 because Muslim women wear religious symbols that are the most visible in Quebec.

The Federation autonome de l'enseignement is asking the Quebec Superior Court to "declare several articles of this law unconstitutional, unenforceable, invalid, inoperative and void."

As a result, teachers, judges, police officers, and other public workers aren't allowed to show their faith with religious symbols while they work.

The measure is meant to keep the state and religion separate with a neutral religious stance.

But as Mallette pointed out, this secularism law is seen as discriminatory to people who are in marginalized communities.

This is the first lawsuit against the bill by a teachers union but it is already facing court challenges from the English Montreal School Board and a group of civil rights and religious advocates.

An earlier court challenge was filed by the federation back in March but this new lawsuit has a few modifications. The first lawsuit wanted the courts to declare any attempt by the Quebec government to count the number of teachers in public schools who wear religious symbols as unconstitutional.

The new one, filed on November 6, also has those demands but goes a step further by seeking that most of Bill 21 be declared as invalid and void.

Mallette said that the piece of legislation "violates the freedom of religion and conscience of public school teachers and threatens their working conditions."

There is no timeline yet of when this case will be heard in Quebec court.

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