Court of Quebec stands by decision to refuse to hear case unless hijab removed

The Court of Quebec is standing by the decision of one of its judges who refused to hear a woman’s case unless she removed her Islamic headscarf.

MONTREAL — The Court of Quebec is standing by the decision of one of its judges who refused to hear a woman’s case unless she removed her Islamic headscarf.

Court spokeswoman Annie-Claude Bergeron said Friday that despite widespread public criticism, Judge Eliana Marengo will not bow to public pressure and Tuesday’s court ruling stands.

“There is really no question of letting (public) pressure change the decision,” Bergeron said in an interview.

Marengo told Rania El-Alloul inside a Montreal courtroom she had to remove her hijab before the court would hear her case against the province’s automobile insurance board, which had seized her vehicle.

The judge said her courtroom was a secular space and religious clothing of any kind is inappropriate.

Marengo cited Article 13 of the rules of provincial court, which reads that “any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed.”

The judge interpreted the rules to include religious headscarves.

“I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding,” Marengo says in a recording of the proceedings.

El-Alloul refused and the judge adjourned the case to an undetermined date.

Bergeron repeated Friday that judges are masters of their courtroom and have the right to interpret the law and set the rules of the court as they see fit.

Federal and provincial politicians, law professors and civil rights groups and other community groups denounced the decision.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in his government’s opinion, the only time people should be forced to remove an article of religious clothing is if the clothing is causing problems for “communication, identification or security.”

“I will be very careful because the judge is sovereign in her decisions, in her courtroom,” Couillard told reporters Friday. “I’m a little bit disturbed by this event, I must say.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the judge’s decision was disrespectful, troubling, and a violation of El-Alloul’s fundamental right to freedom of religion.

“The courtroom has every right to be secular,” said Sukania Pillay, the association’s executive director. “But that doesn’t translate into telling people what they can and cannot wear in a manner that’s incompatible with their freedom of religion.”

Lucie Lamarche, a lawyer and a spokeswoman for Quebec’s league for rights and freedoms, said there is “no judicial precedent” for Marengo’s decision.

“The judge has the right to enforce the decorum in the courtroom,” Lamarche said. “But there is no definition of decorum.”

She said Marengo’s decision was “extremely personal and discriminatory regarding what it means to be dressed properly in the courtroom.”

Lamarche added that the chief justice of the Court of Quebec has the ability to remove a judge from a particular case and that El-Alloul can make that request.

Balpreet Singh, spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said he was “stunned” when he heard of Marengo’s decision.

“This judge is ignoring both Canadian and Quebec law which clearly protects freedom of religion,” he said. “Turbans or other religious clothing doesn’t affect the secular nature of the courtroom.”

Just Posted

Guards injured, money stolen, during overnight blast at Edmonton bank

EDMONTON — Two security guards have been injured in an explosion that… Continue reading

Pot stores on agenda at Toronto city council after two municipalities opt out

TORONTO — Councillors in Toronto are set to debate whether to allow… Continue reading

Police believe body found near Mexican resort is missing Quebec woman

MONTREAL — Mexican authorities have found the body of a woman near… Continue reading

Experts struggle with ethics of assisted death for people with mental disorders

OTTAWA — Experts the federal government charged with looking at whether people… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Dumba scores twice, Wild rout Canadiens 7-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reeling and banged up, the Minnesota Wild were… Continue reading

Most Read