Quebec chief justice postpones speech to Jewish law society over Bill 21 concerns

MONTREAL — Quebec’s chief justice, who is hearing a case seeking a suspension of the province’s secularism law, will no longer be speaking to an association of Jewish lawyers in Montreal following allegations of bias.

The Lord Reading Law Society announced late Tuesday it and Chief Justice Nicole Duval Hesler mutually decided to postpone her speech scheduled for Dec. 10 because the society is involved in a separate court challenge to the secularism law, known as Bill 21.

Duval Hesler’s scheduled talk on how to avoid conflicts of interest at the Quebec Court of Appeal was one element of a complaint filed against her at the Canadian Judicial Council by a Montreal junior college history teacher.

Frederic Bastien also complained to the council that while presiding over a Bill 21 case last week the chief justice declared herself a feminist and suggested opposition to the province’s secularism law results from “visual allergies” to seeing women in a hijab.

Bastien asked the council to investigate Duval Hesler for her comments and for her planned speech to the law society, which he said left the impression she was a partisan judge with a bias against Bill 21.

The law prohibits some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work, and Duval Hesler is one of three judges hearing an appeal from groups seeking to have the central components of the law suspended while their full legal challenge is heard.

The Lord Reading Law Society had filed an intervention in another court challenge to the law, brought by three women teachers.

The society also submitted a brief to a legislature committee last April, which stated Bill 21 “has no reason to exist and, in fact, will create and worsen divisions in Quebec ….”

The chief justice’s actions have drawn divided reactions from academics, with some defending her and others saying she went too far. A judicial council spokeswoman said Monday 30 people had contacted the office with concerns about Duval Hesler following news of Bastien’s complaint.

Premier Francois Legault declined on Wednesday to weigh in on the debate but promised to do what he can to defend the law.

“I told you I have to be prudent, to protect the separation of powers,” he told reporters when asked the postponement of Duval Hesler’s speech. “I can’t tell you more. What I can say is that the government will do all that is possible to protect Bill 21.”

This reporter was first published by The Canadian Press on Dec. 4, 2019.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Beware of Bitcoin scammers

Red Deer butcher and bistro spreading the word about bitcoin scams

Healthy Living Expo encourages Red Deerians to accomplish New Year’s resolution

Many individuals make the New Year’s resolution to live a healthier life.… Continue reading

Red Deer extreme cold snap expected to end after weekend, according to Environment Canada

Expect it to get a little warmer outside after this weekend. While… Continue reading

Ponoka RCMP asks public to help find missing person

Ponoka RCMP are looking for a woman who went missing Friday night.… Continue reading

Stettler son accused of murdering his father

The RCMP have laid charges against a son charged with killing his… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Eastern Newfoundland struggled Saturday to remove record-breaking snowdrifts… Continue reading

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

HOUSTON, B.C. — It’s disrespectful that Premier John Horgan won’t meet with… Continue reading

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

VANCOUVER — Royal watchers say a deal reached by Prince Harry and… Continue reading

Thousands gather for Women’s March rallies across the US

WASHINGTON — Thousands gathered in cities across the country Saturday as part… Continue reading

Sanders steps up appeals to women after flap with Warren

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stepped up his pitch… Continue reading

National Archives: ‘We made a mistake’ altering Trump photos

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The National Archives said Saturday it made… Continue reading

Trudeau, ministers head to Winnipeg for cabinet retreat, western outreach

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reviving his practice of holding… Continue reading

Most Read