Quebec's disputed religion course before top court
A legal challenge to the controversial Ethics and Religious Culture program taught in Quebec's schools will be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The program was introduced in 2008 to elementary and high schools by Quebec's Education Ministry.
It replaces religion classes with a curriculum covering all major faiths found in Quebec culture, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs.
Some parents have been fighting unsuccessfully to keep their children out of the program.
In September 2009, Quebec's Superior Court rejected a request for an exemption from a coalition of Drummondville parents who believe the new ethics and religion course compromises their children's moral education.
After their appeal was denied in Quebec, they took it to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear their case.
Lawyer Jean-Yves Coté is representing one of eight groups that has been granted intervener status in the case, and will argue in the parents' favour.
Coté said he is confident the Supreme Court will act in the parents' favour.
"We only seek an exemption. Although we don't like the course, we don't want it to be prohibited," he said.
Coté said the two lawyers representing the parents will argue that making the program mandatory for all students is unconstitutional.
"They will argue that the obligation to follow the courts goes against the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion."
Richard Decarie is the president of the Coalition for the Freedom of Education, one of the groups presenting arguments in favour of opting out. Decarie said while some people don't want religious material being taught, others don't like the way the government implemented the program.
''For a lot of people it's incredible to see that it was imposed that way."
A total of eighteen lawyers are involved in the case. The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in the coming months.