Former Supreme Court justice believes Charter of Values is necessary
Published Friday, February 7, 2014 2:24PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 7, 2014 10:42PM EST
A former justice of the Supreme Court said she believes the Charter of Values is absolutely essential.
Claire l'Heureux-Dube said that with the ever-increasing number of immigrants coming to Quebec, it's time to bolster both the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights.
Banning people from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols isn’t discriminatory, she said, adding that she believes what a person wears isn’t actually part of their religion, but rather is part of how they choose to express their religion.
The former judge was representing “Lawyers for secularism and religious neutrality of the state,” a group that boasts 12 signatories.
One of her supporters present Friday was another former high-ranking legal authority.
“At the moment there's disparity between freedom of religion and the citizen who are non-believers and they have to be treated equally," said Julie Latour former president of the Montreal Bar Association.
But another former Supreme Court justice had the opposite opinion, saying in an open letter published Friday in La Presse that the charter violates freedom of religion and will never stand up in a court of law.
Louise Arbour said she believes the charter would adversely impact women’s job prospects.
“It is particularly odious to make women who are already marginalized pay the price, women for whom access to work is a key factor for building autonomy and integration,” she wrote.
Arbour added that the bill conjures "a nostalgic image of a homogenous Catholic-secular society where our religious symbols seem inoffensive to us but the symbols of others seem to pose a constant threat."
Also testifying Friday morning was Guy Breton, the rector of the Universite de Montreal.
Breton argued the law isn’t needed and pointed out the university has its own rules to deal with religion accommodation requests.
"I'd never prescribe a medication for someone who isn't sick," said Breton. "We've got to stop giving the impression that someone is a danger because they are different from us."
Breton’s comment that the law unfairly singles out members of certain religions hit a nerve with Bernard Drainville, the minister in charge of the charter.
Drainville corrected Breton, saying that the charter isn’t about singling out certain religion, but being fair to all religions.
The hearings are scheduled to resume Wednesday, Feb. 12, when the English Montreal School Board will give their presentation, among other groups.
Supreme Court Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube waves upon her retiring from the court, in Ottawa, June 10, 2002. (Tom Hanson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)