Bill 21: EMSB to explore next steps in legal battle after Quebec Court of Appeal ruling  

By News Staff

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) will hold a special board meeting Wednesday evening to determine its next steps in a legal battle against the province’s secularism law.

Earlier this year the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that Bill 21 is constitutional, a decision that overturned a lower court ruling that exempted English school boards from the law.

The province’s highest court upheld much of a 2021 Quebec Superior Court ruling, which said the law’s use of the notwithstanding clause overrode infringements of fundamental rights.

The 2019 law declares the province is a secular state and includes a provision prohibiting public sector workers in positions of authority — including teachers, judges, and police officers — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

At the time, the chair of the EMSB called the Feb. 29 ruling disappointing. English school boards have been unable to hire teachers who wear religious symbols since the 2021 ruling, pending the conclusion of the appeal process.

WATCH: Bill 21: What’s next for the challenge of Quebec’s secularism law?

“My heart goes out to them,” Joe Ortona told CityNews in February. “It’s part of the reason why we launched this challenge to begin with. We think that teachers should have the right to wear whatever they want.

“That we should have the right to hire teachers without an arbitrary criteria like what they choose to wear. That has absolutely no bearing on the quality of education that the children receive. And I’ve said this over and over again: no student and no parents have ever complained about a teacher in the class wearing a religious symbol.”

English Montreal School Board building on April 9, 2024. (Martin Daigle, CityNews)

Thursday’s special meeting of the EMSB, which will be presided over by Ortona, will explore the “consideration of legal strategy regarding recent court ruling.” EMSB commissioners and senior management staff will be present.

Members of the public can submit questions to the board.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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