By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) announced Wednesday that it will seek to challenge Quebec’s controversial ban on religious symbols at the Supreme Court of Canada.
This comes six days after the Quebec Court of Appeal refused to suspend part of the law that forbids religious symbols such as hijabs, kippahs, crosses and turbans to be worn by most public servants while they are on the job. That includes teachers, nurses, police officers and bus drivers.
“We told Quebecers and Canadians that we would not stop our work until this unjust law has been defeated, said Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the NCCM, in a news release.
“While teachers and other public sector workers are being forced out of their jobs, we will seek leave from the SCC (Supreme Court of Canada) to halt the serious and irreparable harm that Bill 21 causes.”
Some Muslims have said they have been turned down for teaching positions because they refused to remove their hijabs.
The appeal court agreed that the new law caused harm to people, but the judges said they did not have the power to suspend the law, which was passed by publicly elected officials.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and an individual are also part of the court challenge.
Farooq said other groups and individuals are supporting the challenge.
“Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics and folks who aren’t part of any faith tradition have been fighting with us, standing side by side,” he said. “And it is working. Support for Bill 21 in Quebec has dropped from close to 70% to only 48% as per the most recent polls. That’s massive.”
Quebec Premier François Legault insists the new law, passed this past summer, separates religion and state, promoting secularism, and that it has the support of a majority of Quebecers.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the state had no business telling citizens how to dress, he left the door open to federal intervention in the case.
Legault warned the prime minister to stay out it.
Plaintiffs have to receive court permission to take an issue before the Supreme Court of Canada. But in this instance, that is considered a formality, and the case is expected to be heard in October 2020.