November 9, 2020
Re: “Quebec’s Secularism Law Finally Goes to Court, Nov. 4, 2020”
Quebec’s trouble with Bill 21—the “Secularism Law”—provides an ample demonstration about why ‘Notwithstanding’ clauses are overtly dangerous to parliamentary democracies. For one thing, the clauses ultimately cater to selfish provincial Premiers looking to steamroll unpopular legislation for purely selfish motives in contravention of human and Charter rights. Consider Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s justification for the law: it prevents feuding over “reasonable accommodation practices” in the public arena. Perhaps the apparent discomfort over religious accommodations has to do with the fact that Quebec, a largely Roman Catholic Christian society, is uncomfortable with providing accommodation for neighboring religions. If this is true, it bears stating that the Church hosts many races, cultures, and ethnicities, laity and ordained.
Quebeckers remember the power the Church once held in previous centuries. But the atheistic practices of Mr. Legault and his government should not be used to silence religious expression in the public arena, hence the Constitutional quandaries. The unpopular notwithstanding clauses prove that democracy, even in Canada, is a relative term.