Rights for All
« Québec values », religious diversity, equality between women and men and the duty to accommodate were the focus of the public debate throughout the fall and winter of 2013-2014. The Québec Government released a policy document in September 2013 and then tabled Bill 60, Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests (Secular Charter).
The Government argued that the bill would go a long way in clarifying questions linked to the management of religious diversity, in particular reasonable accommodation requests and the wearing of religious signs by the employees of the State.
The Commission's opinion on the Secular Charter
After careful study, the Commission found that the bill as it is presently drawn up, represents a clear setback for human rights and freedoms. It is also likely to create more opportunities for conflict and disputes in Québec society. The Commission believes that by superimposing a Secular Charter to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, there will be more confusion regarding freedom of religion and it will complicate the management reasonable accommodation requests.
As tensions flared following the release of the policy paper on the “Charter of Values”, the Commission called for respect of the principles enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, a fundamental law of Québec.
The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees and protects the rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone
- Québec already has a fundamental law, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, that guarantees and protects the fundamental rights and freedoms This quasi-constitutional law unanimously adopted by the National Assembly in 1975, recognizes that all human beings are equal in worth and dignity. To learn more... on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- The Charter protects the right to equality of women and men. In order to strengthen this notion of equality of women and men, the principle was enshrined in the preamble to the Charter in 2008. The preamble explains the goal and scope of the Charter; in other words, it affirms that gender equality is a fundamental value of Québec society. To learn more... on the right to equality of women and men
- The duty to accommodate is a legal obligation stemming from the right to equality guaranteed under the Charter. For more than 30 years courts have developed guidelines to ensure the effective right to equality. The duty to accommodate is not limited to cases of discrimination based on religion, but applies in all situations of prohibited discrimination. As well, an accommodation that compromises the right to equality is considered unreasonable. To learn more...on the duty to accommodate
- In the past 4 years, only 3% of all discrimination complaints processed by the Commission have been based on religious grounds, and complaints related to accommodation have accounted for only 0.7% of all files opened and processed by the Commission. To learn more... on reasonable accommodation requests
- Discrimination hinders integration, not the duty to accommodate. The Government should put in place concrete measures to fight racism and discrimination. To learn more…on integration and discrimination
- In Québec law, the principle of the State’s neutrality already exists as corollary of the principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the Charter. The state must remain neutral regarding religions, not only to ensure every individual’s freedom of religion and conscience but also to prevent discrimination based on religion, a right protected under the Québec Charter.To learn more...on state neutrality
The debate surrounding Bill 60 was and remains an opportunity to raise awareness on the issue of fundamental rights and freedoms, especially the right to freedom of religion and the right to equality. It has also allowed the Commission to restate that one right cannot trump another. The Québec Charter is a coherent whole made up of universal, indivisible and interdependent rights and freedoms.
Latest news from the Québec Commission
New President and Vice-President responsible for the youth mandate
Mr. Frémont was appointed by the Québec National Assembly, President of Commission on June 12, 2013 and took up his post in August. Before his nomination, he was International Higher Education Support Program Director with the New York-based Open Society Foundations where he coordinated the foundation’s work in several countries and continents. He is Professor Emeritus at the Université de Montréal.
He obtained his law degree from the Université Laval and pursued graduate studies both at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University, Toronto) and at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Early in his career, he clerked for the Hon. Justice Yves Pratte of the Supreme Court of Canada. During more than 30 years, he held several positions with the Université de Montréal and was director of the Centre de recherche en droit public of the Law Faculty (1994-1999), Dean of the Law Faculty (2000-2004) and was both Provost and Vice-rector-Academic Affairs (2007-2012).
Mr. Picard was appointed by the Québec National Assembly to the Commission as Vice-President responsible for the youth mandate in June 2013 and took up his post in September. Before his nomination, he had been Executive Director of the Centre jeunesse de la Montérégie for the past 11 years.
A graduate of the Université Laval, Mr. Picard holds a master’s degree in psychology (1978) and a diploma in administration (1985). He worked in Québec’s youth protection network for more than 40 years.
Find out more about Members of the Commission
The Commission online
In early 2013, the Commission’s new accessible and more user-friendly website was launched to allow visitors to easily find information on their rights, publications or on training sessions. An interactive chart outlining the complaints process is now available which explains how to file a complaint under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms or how to make an intervention request under the Youth Protection Act.