Just days after the official start of the federal election campaign, Quebec’s controversial secularism law Bill 21 has quickly become a sleeper issue amid repeated refusals by federal leaders to intervene and launch a legal challenge to the bill.
And while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have both vowed they would not implement such a bill on the federal level, neither has moved to challenge it in court and both have rejected calls to intervene.
Trudeau has repeatedly told reporters covering the Liberal campaign in recent days that he is “deeply opposed” to the bill but that it would be “counterproductive” for the federal government to try to do anything about it.
On Friday, though, Trudeau added that while there are no plans to challenge it now, he has not ruled out doing so in the future.
“We are not closing the door to a possible intervention because it would be irresponsible for a federal government to choose to shut the door on a matter of fundamental rights,” he said following questions during a campaign stop in Trois-Rivieres, Que.
That remark came after he said on Thursday: “We are looking at if and when the federal government should get involved.”
WATCH: A Conservative government would not intervene in Bill 21 case, says Scheer
Quebec Premier François Legault told federal leaders earlier this week not to challenge the bill and to stay out of Quebec’s affairs.
Neither Green Party Leader Elizabeth May nor NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would commit during a federal leaders debate on Thursday night to intervene, either.
Bill 21 bars some public-sector employees from displaying visible signs of religion while at work: things like crucifixes and religious head coverings such as turbans, hijabs and kippahs.
The law went into effect earlier this summer and prompted significant outcry from civil rights groups, which claim it infringes on the right to freedom of religion under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is currently being challenged in court by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a university student called Ichrak Nourel Hak, who wears a hijab.
That challenge won a small victory last month in court when Quebec’s Court of Appeal agreed to allow the parties to appeal a ruling from a lower court in June that refused to grant an injunction. That injunction would have temporarily stopped the law from going into effect.
Quebec’s Appellate Court will now hear the appeal of the failed bid for an injunction.
The hearing is expected to take place this fall.
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