bill 21: the law against
religious freedom

The issue: FIGHTING FOR BILL 21 - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Quebec teachers, police officers, judges, and lawyers working in public services urgently need your support.

The government of Quebec is banning Canadians working in those professions from wearing religious symbols such as crosses, hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes.

We think Bill 21 unconstitutional.

The Quebec government is forcing their politics on all Quebeckers by forcing people to dress contrary to their own private beliefs. This law discriminates against people currently working in the public sector, and the youth who aspire to those careers. These people are being mistreated by their provincial government, so we are fighting the government of Quebec in court.

Bill 21 harms immigrant and racialized communities in particular.

It unfairly targets people who express their faith through what they wear.

People should not be forced to make the choice between their religion, their identity and their profession. The government should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on the people of Quebec, nor should they be dictating to individuals what they can and cannot wear.

The women who choose to wear scarves, hats, and turbans should also have a right to freedom of expression and religion, and to make their own choices without government interference, like all people in Canada.

CCLA is here to defend the rights and freedoms of those living in Quebec and millions of others in Canada. Together with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and a young education student, we challenged the law in court.

Click here to learn more about our freedom of religion work.

Click here to sign our petition against Bill 21.

Our recent work on bill 21 in canada

2020 Quebec superior court

CCLA is grateful for the support and pro bono contribution of our outstanding litigation team and their firm: David Grossman, Catherine McKenzie, Olga Redko, and Léa Charbonneau (IMK LLP)

Suspending Bill 21 is an urgent matter.

We were before the Quebec Court of Appeal late November 2019 arguing for a temporary suspension of Bill 21 until the courts can decide on the law’s constitutionality. We outlined the various harms that the religious symbols ban has already caused, and on that basis, asked the court for an urgent remedy. 

On December 12, 2019, we received the Court’s decision, and it was devastating. Two out of the three judges denied our request for suspension: the law stays in place. One of the judges would have suspended the law. And all three Justices agreed that there are harms being caused to Quebecers who wear religious symbols. One of the Justices even said it is “apparent that their fundamental rights are being violated,” particularly the rights of Muslim women who wear the hijab. 

Our unwavering resolve to keep fighting for marginalized people in Canada, and our commitment to justice and equality, are why we urge everyone to stand together against the religious symbols ban. We can and must defeat this law, – Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA’s Director of Equality

We haven’t given up the fight for equality – next step: the superior Court of quebec. Trial starts November 2, 2020

Bill 21 UPDATES

November 23, 2020 – Ongoing Trial – We are now entering the second stage of the trial challenging Bill 21 – the Laicity Act in Quebec. All of the evidence has now been presented before the court: the witnesses and experts have been examined and cross-examined. On November 30th the court will begin to hear almost 3 weeks of legal arguments, beginning with our excellent team of lawyers. They will explain to the court why, notwithstanding the notwithstanding clause, the law banning religious symbols in many workplaces is unconstitutional and must be struck down. The three other plaintiff parties, the government respondents, and multiple intervenors will also have their opportunity to be heard by the court. The trial is currently scheduled to conclude on December 17th.

November 2, 2020TRIAL BEGINS. Our challenge against the Laicity Act (Bill 21), in which we will demonstrate that the law is unconstitutional and invalid, is scheduled to occur at the Quebec Superior Court. CCLA, NCCM and Hak will be in court for around five weeks fighting against the law. There are three other challenges that will be heard together with ours. The trial will have two parts: first witnesses, then legal arguments. CCLA, NCCM, and Hak are grateful to our extraordinary legal team: David Grossman, Olga Redko, and Léa Charbonneau (IMK LLP).

The hearings will start every day at 9:30am, in room 17.09 of the courthouse located at 1 Notre Dame Street East. There is a special entrance for lawyers. Everyone else uses the entrance on St-Antoine.

December 18, 2019 – CCLA announces that we are applying for the Supreme Court to hear our case for the immediate suspension of Bill 21.

December 12, 2019 – In a 2-1 ruling, the Quebec Court of Appeal decides Bill 21 won’t be voided at this time.

November 26, 2019 – appeal hearing to determine whether Quebec’s religious symbols law, An Act respecting the laicity of the State (formerly known as Bill 21) should be suspended.

August 1, 2019 – CCLA, NCCM and Ichrak Nourel Hak ask Quebec Court of Appeal to review an earlier decision. The hearing was successful! The court grants permission to review lower court’s decision that denied our request to suspend the law.

July 22, 2019 – Filed our application for leave to appeal the denial of the suspension of the law

July 18, 2019  – Court decides to deny CCLA, NCCM and Hak’s request for suspension of the law

July 2, 2019 – Court Hearing at the Superior Court in Montreal

June 17, 2019 – CCLA, NCCM and Hak file constitutional challenge of the law and application to suspend its operation

June 16, 2019 – Bill 21 passes and becomes law