Cover: The Challenges of a Secular Quebec: Bill 21 in Perspective, edited by Lucia Ferretti and François Rocher. Illustration: A series of gold lines on a blue-and-white background.
328 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Aug 2024
Release Date:15 Sep 2023
Release Date:15 Sep 2023
Release Date:15 Sep 2023

The Challenges of a Secular Quebec

Bill 21 in Perspective

Edited by Lucia Ferretti and François Rocher; Translated by George Tombs
UBC Press

In 2019, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 21. It prohibits, among other things, certain state employees in positions of authority (including teachers, prison guards, police officers, and justices of the peace) from wearing religious symbols when providing public services. Most political commentators in English Canada denounced the move as running counter to Canadian multiculturalism and human rights. Why did the government adopt this particular form of state secularism? And why did it garner public support?

The Challenges of a Secular Quebec provides illuminating answers to these questions, exploring why many Quebecers consider the law legitimate. Contributors analyze the statute from different angles to provide a nuanced, respectful discussion of its intentions and principles. They open up debates on state religious neutrality, examine how political and social actors understand the concept, and trace the ways in which the issue has inserted itself into the Quebec social space.

Given the province’s singular history in North America, the merits of the initiative to separate church and state must be considered within the Quebec context. The Challenges of a Secular Quebec calls for a legal interpretation of Bill 21 that is sensitive to this difference.

This essential work will appeal not only to scholars and students of political science, sociology, law, and history but also to readers seeking to understand Quebec perspectives on Bill 21.

In the dire context of translation and communications between Canadian anglophone and francophone scholars, this book represents a rare opportunity to bridge gaps and engage in better-informed discussions on a contentious issue. Dominique Marshall, Department of History, Carleton University

Lucia Ferretti is a professor in the Department of Humanities at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a specialist in socio-religious history. She is the author of numerous books, among them L’Action nationale: Le long combat pour le Québec, which covers more than a hundred years of Quebec nationalism.

François Rocher is a professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, where he has held the Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair. He is a recipient of the Société Québécoise de science politique (SQSP) Prix d’excellence in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the advancement of political science.

George Tombs is a translator, author, and filmmaker living in Quebec City. He has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from McGill University and has won thirty-two awards worldwide for his university research, journalism, and creative works. He has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Translation and works in English and French interchangeably.

Contributors: Normand Baillargeon, Marc Chevrier, Yasmina Chouakri, Charles-Étienne Gill, Micheline Labelle, Julie Latour, Roberto Perin, Guillaume Rousseau, Paul Sabourin, Patrick Taillon, Daniel Turp

Foreword / Roberto Perin

Introduction / Lucia Ferretti and François Rocher

Part 1: Things in Perspective

1 Putting Things in Perspective: The Many Varieties of Secularism / François Rocher

2 Beyond Defending Religious Symbols: The Desire to Put Quebec In Its Place / Lucia Ferretti

Part 2: Historical and Sociological Perspectives

3 Quebec: Under the Rule of its Two Cities / Marc Chevrier

4 The Difficult Search for a Quebec Model of Laicity / Micheline Labelle

5 Some Muslim Quebec Women and Men Are in Favour of Bill 21 / Yasmina Chouakri

Part 3: Legal Perspectives

6 The Laicity of the State: The Cornerstone of Individual Civil and Political Rights / Julie Latour

7 Arguments Relating to the Unconstitutionality of the Act Respecting the Laicity of the State: A Massive Rebuttal / Daniel Turp

8 Rights Guaranteed Equally to Both Sexes, the Notwithstanding Clause, and the Act Respecting the Laicity of the State: Overview and Contribution to the Debate from a Quebec Perspective / Guillaume Rousseau

9 Laicity in the Light of Institutional Dialogue in Canada / Patrick Taillon

Part 4: Educational Perspectives

10 The Medium is the Message: There’s No Point Cluttering Educational Communication / Charles-Étienne Gill

11 Thinking About Laicity Today with Ferdinand Buisson / Normand Baillargeon

12 Secularism and the Symbolic: The Quebec School as a Place of Immanent Knowledge / Paul Sabourin

Conclusion: The Fate Of Bill 21 in the Courts and in Public Opinion in English Canada / Lucia Ferretti and François Rocher

List of Contributors; Index

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