Quebec woman ordered by judge to remove hijab in court seeks clearer rules

Given the ongoing Quebec debates, a declaratory ruling might be helpful:

Rania El-Alloul, the Montreal woman who was asked by a Quebec Court judge to remove her hijab during a hearing in 2015, was back in court Thursday asking a Superior Court justice to clarify the rules governing religious attire in Quebec courtrooms.

Judge Eliana Marengo told El-Alloul during a hearing in February 2015 that she would only hear El-Alloul’s case if she removed her hijab.

At the time, El-Alloul was in court trying to get her car back after it had been seized by Quebec’s automobile insurance board.

Marengo told El-Alloul that a courtroom was a secular space, and she was not suitably dressed.

The judge also compared the hijab to a hat and sunglasses, which would not normally be allowed in court.

The specific rule about attire in Quebec courtrooms simply states that people appearing before judges must be “suitably dressed,” with no further explanation.

The case sparked outrage across the country, with many lawyers offering to represent El-Alloul and people offering money to help cover her legal bills, suggesting that her charter rights had been violated.

Superior Court asked to weigh in on attire

El-Alloul’s lawyers asked Quebec Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie on Thursday for a declaratory judgment — essentially a ruling that would clarify that hijabs and other religious attire are permitted in Quebec courtrooms and that a judge can’t refuse to hear witnesses on that basis.

Julius Grey and Catherine McKenzie argued that such a ruling is necessary so people who wear religious attire know if they can be heard in Quebec courts.

Without a declaration of rights, McKenzie said, “this opens the door to ask people about religious belief because of what they wear on their head.”

She called that a slippery slope.

Mario Nomandin, the lawyer for Quebec’s attorney general, said such a declaration was not needed.

Normandin noted the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that the question of religious clothing in court should be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Justice Wilbrod Décarie said he will take the arguments under advisement.

It could be weeks or months before he renders his decision.

Source: Quebec woman ordered by judge to remove hijab in court seeks clearer rules – Montreal – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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