Quebec historian files complaint against chief justice hearing Bill 21 challenge

A formal complaint has been lodged against the Quebec Court of Appeal’s chief justice over her handling of a challenge to the province’s secularism law.

Frédéric Bastien, a historian and teacher at Dawson College, argues Nicole Duval Hesler should recuse herself from the case in which she described herself as a feminist, which he likens to a political stance.

The complaint comes after Canadian civil liberties groups were before the province’s top court last week, arguing Bill 21 harms minority groups and unfairly targets women.

irreparable harm,’ civil liberties groups tell Court of Appeal

The legislation bars public-sector employees in positions of authority — including teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. The Legault government has repeatedly defended the law, arguing it has support from the majority of Quebecers.

Bastien claims Duval Hesler overstepped when she asked Éric Cantin, a lawyer for the Quebec government, if he wears a religious symbol.

“This is a misplaced question that led him to publicly disclose his atheism,” he wrote in a post on social media.

As part of his complaint, Bastien wrote Hesler Duval said Bill 21 stemmed from “visual allergies” to seeing people wearing religious garb, which he said equates the legislation to “sick people.”

Outside of the courtroom, Bastien takes issue with the fact that Hesler Duval is invited to speak at the Lord Reading Law Society in December.

The organization has publicly spoken out against the secularism law, which, in a brief to the National Assembly, it maintained has “no reason to exist.” The event shows the chief justice is not impartial, said Bastien.

Earlier this year, Bastien considered running for leadership of the Parti Québécois. The party favours restrictions on religious symbols.

If Hesler Duval does not recuse herself, Bastien is calling on the province’s justice minister to step in and ask her to do it.

Global News reached out to Justice Minister Sonia LeBel, but a spokesperson said she will not be commenting on a challenge that is before the courts.

The three Appeal Court justices are expected to deliberate and render a decision on the challenge to Bill 21 within the coming months.

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