This is the first in a series of articles to be published in English on the web site of Alepin Gauthier.
The purpose is to introduce ourselves to English-speaking net surfers as well as to give you valuable information on a wide variety of legal topics.
We are planning to have new content for you twice per month, on the first and the 15th day of each month. Our English-speaking lawyers will each be producing articles and we hope to keep you informed and up-to-date on the news and the latest developments in law.
We hope to show our readers in Laval, Montreal and the surrounding areas of the value of consulting with Alepin Gauthier for all types of legal questions.
In this first edition, we wish to briefly examine the recent Bill 60, proposed by the government of Quebec, popularly known as the “Charter of Values”. (Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests)
The Basic Principles of Bill 60
Among the more well-known articles in the Bill, it has been provided that public employees must, while doing their jobs, not wear objects which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation, for example: headgear, clothing, jewellery, or other adornments.
Furthermore, public employees are also required, in the exercise of their jobs, to maintain religious neutrality and they must exercise reserve with regard to expressing their religious beliefs, although the extent of these two obligations are not defined in the bill.
Although Bill 60 is generally aimed at public employees, persons working in the private sector will also be affected. Article 10 of the Bill permits public bodies to require that anyone with whom it has entered into a service contract or a subsidy agreement respects one or more of the duties and obligations set out in articles 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Bill, for example, the prohibition against wearing religious symbols, but only if such a requirement is warranted in the circumstances, in particular, because of the duration, nature or place of performance of the contract or agreement. Again, these criteria are not defined in the Bill.
The Bill also makes certain amendments to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and more specifically adds language to the said Charter to the effect that, “the equality between men and women and the primacy of the French language as well as the separation of religions and state and the religious neutrality and secular nature of the state are fundamental values of the Quebec nation.”
Court Challenges Bill 60 May Pose if It Passes
Should Bill 60 become law, it seems almost inevitable that there will be court challenges based upon possible violation of the Canadian constitution and in particular, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and more specifically: (A) article 2 paragraphs a) and b), the freedom of conscience and religion as well as the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; and (B) article 15, equal protection under the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, etc.
It is to be noted that Bill 60 does not include a notwithstanding clause, as would have been permitted under article 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Therefore, the law is subject to all court challenges. In particular, court challenges would be open not only to public employees who might be disciplined or even terminated if they were to fail to comply with the Bill, but as well to any persons in the private sector who could lose jobs, contracts or subsidies because they were to fail to respect an obligation imposed by a public organization to obey the same restrictions, for example, on the wearing of religious clothing or jewellery.
In conclusion, even if Bill 60 passes into law, this is bound to be only the first step as the debate will move thereafter from the National Assembly to both the voting public, as well as the courts.
Me Franco Tamburro
Alepin Gauthier Avocats Inc.