Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Court Judge's Hijab Removal Decision Sparks Widespread Criticism

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Court Judge's Hijab Removal Decision Sparks Widespread Criticism

Article excerpt

Quebec hijab decision sparks widespread criticism

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MONTREAL - There was widespread outrage and condemnation from civil rights groups, politicians and others Friday in reaction to a Quebec judge's refusal to hear a woman's case unless she removed her hijab.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard called the decision "disturbing," while the Canadian Civil Liberties Association deemed it troubling, discriminatory and a violation of the Canadian Charter right to freedom of religion.

Justin Trudeau declared it to be "just plain wrong."

On Tuesday, Quebec Court Judge Eliana Marengo told Rania El-Alloul inside a Montreal courtroom she had to remove her hijab before the court would hear her case against the province's automobile insurance board, which had seized her vehicle.

Marengo said that she wanted her courtroom to be secular and El-Alloul's Islamic headscarf was inappropriate.

El-Alloul refused to remove her hijab, and in response, Marengo suspended the case indefinitely.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office said "if someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify."

The Liberal leader weighed in during an event in Montreal.

"The fact that in this situation, in a courtroom of all places, someone's fundamental rights weren't respected is absolutely unacceptable and we expect that there will be consequences," Trudeau said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the judge made a mistake.

"I expect this individual to be given a full and proper hearing in short order," Mulcair told reporters in Toronto. "It's a simple matter of that person's rights as a Canadian."

A spokeswoman for the Court of Quebec said Friday it is standing by Marengo's decision and the judge would not bow to public pressure.

Annie-Claude Bergeron repeated Friday that judges are masters of their courtroom and have the right to interpret the law and set the rules of the court as they see fit.

El-Alloul did not return messages from The Canadian Press, but told CTV News on Friday that she is planning to file complaint. …

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