By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – A judge in Quebec, Canada on Thursday rejected a request by a Muslim group and a civil liberties association to have sections of the province’s secularism law suspended.
Justice Michel Yergeau said it would be irregular for the court to rule against an injunction duly passed by an elected legislature.
Bill 21 was enacted in June and forbids civil servants including police, nurses, teachers and bus drivers from wearing religious symbols such as Muslim hijabs, Jewish yarmulkes, Sikh turbans and Christian crosses while dealing with the public.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association brought the court action asking for a suspension pending further investigation of the law’s constitutionality.
The organizations argued that the law is unconstitutional and will cause “very grave harm” to minorities in Quebec.
But Yergeau ruled that the law “demands to be decided on merit” and not in the name of individual interests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no bones about his opposition to the new law.
“We do not feel it is a government’s responsibility or in a government’s interest to legislate on what people should be wearing,” he told reporters late last month.
Catherine McKenzie, a lawyer for the two groups that brought the court action, said the government “is legislating the practice of religion. There is no other way to say it”.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said most Quebecers want religion to be separate from the state and so are in favor of the law.
Justice Yergeau’s ruling means Bill 21 will continue to be in force until a court challenge to the law is heard and ruled upon at a future date