Photo: Karoline Boucher The Canadian Press “To defend the Quebec model, we must be able to defend collective rights. It is good to defend individual rights, but there are also collective rights, and the derogation clause allows us to do so,” Minister Jean-François Roberge declared on Thursday.
Restricting the use of the derogation provision would be a “very, very, very bad idea”, believes the Minister responsible for Secularism, Jean-François Roberge, who proposed Thursday to protect for five others years law 21.
In the morning, the CAQ minister tabled a bill “allowing the Parliament of Quebec to preserve the principle of parliamentary sovereignty with regard to the Law on State Secularism.” The legislative text consists of only two articles and ensures that the exemption provision is renewed for another cycle, protecting the law from certain articles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a decision rendered in 2021, the Superior Court of Quebec mainly upheld the law on religious neutrality, adopted in 2019, arguing that Quebec's use of the notwithstanding provision obliged it to do so.
In a press scrum on Thursday, a few minutes before tabling his bill, Jean-François Roberge maintained that Bill 21 was “an extremely important achievement” for Quebec. “It preserves, at the moment, social peace, it promotes living together. This is why we absolutely must renew the exemption clause,” he said before rushing into the Blue Room.
In his farewell speech in Ottawa, former federal Justice Minister David Lametti mentioned the idea of preventing the preventive use of the notwithstanding provision. “At some point […] we have to understand that constitutional change will be necessary. And we must prepare for that,” he said, attacking the use of these articles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the CAQ law reforming the Charter of the French language.
The next day, the Quebec lieutenant in Justin Trudeau’s government, Pablo Rodriguez, agreed that “many members of the [liberal] caucus share this point of view.”
Questioned on this subject on Thursday, Minister Roberge wanted to issue a warning to the federal government. “That would be a very, very, very, bad idea,” he argued. [The notwithstanding provision] is part of the balance. Balance in Canada is extremely important. »
“To defend the Quebec model, we must be able to defend collective rights. It is good to defend individual rights, but there are also collective rights, and the notwithstanding clause allows us to do so,” he added, while affirming that he did not perceive any “appetite » among federal politicians to reopen the Constitution.
The Legault government will not take advantage of the reopening of its law to extend its scope, assured Prime Minister François Legault on Thursday. “We don’t want to change it, we just want to protect it,” he said in a press scrum at the Parliament Building.
“It’s not in our plans,” added Mr. Roberge. I think this is something that there is consensus on. »
In the morning, the Parti Québécois invited the government to go further in applying the Secularism Act. “In the debate on the adoption [of] Bill 21, [we] proposed that daycare services be subject to this law and that we put an end to funding for Quebec religious schools,” recalled PQ MP Pascal Bérubé.
Québec solidaire, for its part, will not oppose the preventive use of the exemption provision. “In principle […], we are completely in favor of that, since we have not signed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said party co-spokesperson Émilise Lessard-Therrien, Wednesday.
The Liberal Party does not support this idea and is opposed to “the notwithstanding clause, which undermines our rights and freedoms as Quebecers”.