Parti Québécois calls to block court challenges against face-covering ban
Quebec Liberals do not rule out overriding Charter of Rights and Freedoms if Bill 62 is challenged
Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said if his party were in power, he would invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution to stop a court challenge of the province's new face-covering ban.
"There would be no possible recourse to the courts to get out of it," Lisée said at a news conference Wednesday.
The Liberal government has come under fire from every direction since passing Bill 62 last week, which forbids those with their faces covered from giving or receiving services from nearly all provincially and municipally funded institutions.
Some of the law's many critics, including constitutional lawyer Julius Grey and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have said they expect the courts will overturn the law, ruling it violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The PQ, along with the Coalition Avenir Québec, have criticized the government for not going far enough.
The Constitution's so-called notwithstanding clause allows governments to override parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in exceptional circumstances.
"There is a way to get around this problem," Lisée said.
"The notwithstanding clause allows us to say 'Regardless of what is written in this article in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we are going to do this. Regardless.'"
Were the Couillard government to invoke the clause, it would not be the first time a Liberal provincial government has done so.
In 1988, then-premier Robert Bourassa invoked the clause when he introduced Bill 178, which decreed that only French could be used on exterior signs while English would be allowed inside commercial establishments.
While Lisée said he does not believe the Liberal government will invoke the clause, he's vowing to do so if the PQ is elected in 2018.
He also said he would change the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms so that citizens could also not make use of it to challenge the ban either.
Not off the table
Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said her government has no plans right now to consider invoking the notwithstanding clause.
"There are no challenges in the courts," she said.
"It is one of the means that we have available to us, but we are not there."
No niqabs in public
If the PQ were to come to power, it would also strike up a committee of experts to examine the possibility of banning Muslim face-coverings, including the niqab and burqa, from all public places.
The party is also pledging to introduce its own bill by Christmas that would impose penalties against those who fail to comply with Quebec's current face-covering ban.
So far, McGill University has said it will continue to operate as it had before the law, without explaining whether or not that means its policies already fell within its rules.
Lisée considers the statement to mean the university does not intend to comply with the law.
"The main anglophone university has said to the government 'It doesn't bother me. Vote for whatever laws you want. They will bring no changes to how we apply things here,'" he said.
The PQ's proposed bill would apply the face-covering ban just as Quebec's law against texting while driving is enforced — which could involve having people call the police if someone refuses to obey it, he said.
It would also prohibit people who wear religious symbols from working as judges, prison guards, police officers and any newly hired daycare workers who work within elementary and secondary schools.