Ex-justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé supports secular 'values' charter

Two former Supreme Court judges are at odds over Quebec’s proposed secular charter.

Former top court justices Claire L'Heureux-Dubé and Louise Arbour disagree on Bill 60's viability

Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé sat on Canada's top court from 1987 to 2002. (Radio-Canada)

Two former Supreme Court judges are at odds over Quebec’s proposed secular charter.

Former Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, who sat on Canada's top court from 1987 to 2002, spoke today at the national assembly’s public hearings on the charter.

The secular charter, or Bill 60, has faced criticism for banning overtly religious symbols for all public-sector employees.

But L'Heureux-Dubé said that such a ban would not necessarily infringe on human rights.

She said she sees the charter as an opportunity to create a secular state, and she believes it would survive a court challenge.

But L'Heureux-Dubé’s former colleague, Louise Arbour, paints a different picture.

In an open letter to a Montreal newspaper, former Supreme Court Justice Arbour calls Bill 60 an “odious” project.

“There is no doubt that, as proposed, the charter would infringe on rights of freedom of religion,” Arbour stated in the letter, printed in La Presse.

She said the proposed law would limit freedom of religion, largely at the expense of Muslim women.

Arbour, who was on the Supreme Court from 1994 to 2004, said the charter would likely not survive a constitutional challenge.

She calls it a “siren song” that evokes an antiquated image of a homogeneous Quebec, where other faiths are seen as threats.