Thoughts on Bill 21
In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of religion is defined as “the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practise or by teaching and dissemination.”
The Charter also say’s under Section 24: “Anyone who believes his or her rights or freedoms under the Charter have been violated by any level of Government can go to court and ask for a remedy.”
While the Charter does mention limitations around the right of religion, clearly any limitation that restricts people's rights as defined above would come from the highest courts, not from Misters Legault or Ryan. The use (or abuse) of the notwithstanding clause makes this Bill even more troublesome for me, in that it greatly restricts the ability to go to court, as provided in the Charter. Why use it if, as Mr. Ryan says, people can still practise their religious beliefs “when they do not contravene other parts of civil law”?
It’s clear that this will go to the highest courts, so why drag out that process and risk more conflicts as was the case in Chelsea? Quebec should retract their use of the notwithstanding clause and work to expedite this bill to the courts. After the process is exhausted, all involved will have a law that we will all have to live with, regardless of the outcome.