A new law in Quebec (formerly known as Bill 21) bans wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, turbans, kippas and crucifixes for many public service employees. Those affected include teachers, judges, police officers, certain lawyers as well as students, children and youth who aspire towards those careers. The law took effect in June, 2019 and disproportionately impacts people who may already be marginalized, including Muslim women who wear head scarves as part of their religious faith and identity, Sikhs who wear a turban, and Orthodox Jewish men who wear a kippa.

CCLA and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) are fighting this law in court. We strongly oppose the religious symbols ban and plan to fight it by every means possible. Read on for updates and materials related to the fight.


29 November 2019:

Almost six long months have passed since the religious symbols ban in Quebec became law and the impacts have been palpable; residents have started losing jobs, have been denied career opportunities, have felt forced to leave the province. People who wear certain religious symbols are being harmed in various ways because the law prohibits them from working in their chosen profession. This is a significant human rights violation, which will result in more people being affected.

 This law has turned certain religious individuals into second class citizens – many of whom come from minority ethnic, immigrant, and racialized communities.  This law has had a particular impact on Muslim women teachers.

On November 26, 2019, we were fighting for justice at the Quebec Court of Appeal in front of a three-judge panel which included the Chief Justice of Quebec. In a few days or weeks, we are expecting to receive a decision on whether the law will be suspended, whether exemptions will be granted, or whether the law will remain in force without any changes.

Our goal is to have the harmful impacts of the law temporarily suspended until a final decision is made by the courts about the underlying challenge in which we argue that the law is not constitutional.

This week’s hearing into our request for a suspension asked the court to consider the harm the law has caused, and asked the court to prevent further harm, and to put a stop to the effects of this discriminatory ban.

We filed both the request for a suspension, and the underlying challenge together with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and an individual young woman, Ichrak Nourel Hak, who wants to be a French teacher. The underlying challenge on the law’s validity and constitutionality is scheduled to occur in October 2020.

We hope our November 26th efforts will stop more harm from occurring until a final decision is made about the constitutionality of the religious symbols ban.

We want to be clear: this fight is a long one. We do not know how the courts will decide, and if the government hopes to appeal any court decisions it does not like. We know this has the potential to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and we could be looking at a long battle of 5-7 years. We want to let you know this because this is how injustice happens, slowly and insidiously, targeting only some of us at a time. Throughout this process, it is imperative that we stick together and stand up for our neighbours who are being pushed out of their own communities.

We hope the religious symbols ban is suspended, and will fight this to the very end.

Join the fight today and defend equality and freedom for all. 


Check out our video ‘Freedom, Choice, and the Niqab’ to understand more about freedom of expression and religion in Canada.




October, 2020 – underlying challenge on the law’s validity and constitutionality is scheduled to occur.

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



September 30, 2019 Amended Notice of Application

September 25, 2019 Factum to Quebec Court of Appeal Concerning Denial of Suspension of The Law

August 13, 2019 Reasons for Judgement in Quebec Court of Appeal Granting Leave 

July 22, 2019  Application to Appeal the Denial of the Suspension of The Law

July 18, 2019 Decision Denying Suspension of The Law

June 17, 2019 Constitutional Challenge and Application for Suspension of the Law

June 16, 2019 Bill 21 Passes and Becomes Law



Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA

Director, Equality Program

E: mendelsohnaviv@ccla.org

P: 647-780-9802