World News

Court rejects bid to suspend part of Canadian province's religious symbols ban

TORONTO (Reuters) - A court in the Canadian province of Quebec on Thursday rejected a bid to suspend parts of a new provincial law that bans public sector employees from wearing religious symbols to work.

The law, adopted on June 16, prompted critics to accuse the province’s right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec government of discriminating against Muslims. Polls indicated broad support in Quebec for the move.

The law prohibits all public employees in positions of authority - including public school teachers, prison guards, judges and police officers - from wearing religious symbols to work, such as kippahs, hijabs and crosses.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) challenged the law almost immediately. They also bid to have parts of it suspended, a move rejected by Quebec superior court judge Michel Yergeau.

“A law - no matter which law - is presumed to have been presented, debated and validly adopted in the interests of and for the well-being of the community as a whole,” he ruled.

“Courts are very reluctant to go down this road (suspending parts of a law) at a preliminary stage,” he added, saying the human rights groups should await the court challenge.

NCCM executive director Mustafa Farooq said his group was reviewing the decision and considering the options to appeal.

“This is a disappointing decision that permits a discriminatory law to continue to operate, while causing real harms to individuals who simply wish to go to work in their jobs and chosen professions,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the CCLA’s equality program, in a statement.

Reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Steve Scherer and G Crosse