(Barbara Kay in the National Post offers an excellent explanation and analysis of the ERC if you'd like to know more.)
The fury displayed by those elected and unelected officials at the 'impertinent' court's audacity to overturn a government policy that violates not only our constitution, but the general principles of freedom that has been the hallmark of our society for generations is telling. It is a dangerous sign that the assault on personal choice is going hand in had with an assault on the last line of defence of our freedoms- the courts.
An angry Minister of education, Michelle Courchesne, called the decision "excessive" in response to the court ruling that backed the school, one in which she was subject to a serious dressing down by Justice Gérard Dugré.
The minister reacted quickly, telling reporters that the decision would be appealed, a position that was quickly supported by opposition leader Pauline Marois who also holds that our courts are nothing more than pesky meddlers.
Let me refresh readers with the issue concerned, it isn't that complicated.
Several years ago the government removed the teaching of religion from public schools and replaced it with a generalized course in ethics and religious culture (ERC), one that taught students about the structure and beliefs of most major religions from a neutral or secular standpoint. Some commentators were uncomfortable with the Ethics side of the course, claiming that it was nothing more than political indoctrination, citing the example of the insufferable Francoise David the dogmatic separatist leader of the Quebec Soldaire political party who is portrayed in the course material as a shining example of feminism. That being said, the real bug bear was the teaching of religions from a secular standpoint.
Some parents both in the public and private school systems objected to exposing their children to the tenets of other religions and the sanitized secular views being imposed on them, claiming that it was confusing and undermining the family's inherent right to be responsible for religious instruction.
A group of parents in Drummondville sued to exempt their children from the course, but lost in court. That case is currently winding itself up to the Supreme Court
A private religious school in Montreal, Loyola High School, sued as well, when its request to teach the ERC course from a Catholic perspective was denied by the eduction department, which told the school it must teach the course in the prescribed manner, from a neutral point of view.
The judge hearing the case came down hard on the Minister and the Education Department's policy, saying;
Wow, he didn't mince words!“The obligation imposed on Loyola to teach the ethics and religious culture course in a lay fashion assumes a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo’s being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe.” -Justice Gérard Dugré.
Essentially his decision was that while the Education department may impose a neutral view of the religious world in public schools, the department may not tell private religious schools to do the same.
The judge made eminently good sense in saying that as long as religious private schools are legal, they may teach religion in their schools.
Of course this makes no sense to the government and other secularists who demand that their view on language, culture and religion be imposed on all students, like it or not.
Now the government has decided that it will appeal the court's decision, a foolish move that will just delay the inevitable defeat in the Supreme Court, a move cynically calculated to shift the blame for the defeat to the 'dastardly Anglo' Supreme Court.
This strategy was used successfully to take the heat off the Quebec government for having passed Bill 104, a law clearly unconstitutional.
But unlike the Bill 104 case, where the application of the decision was set aside for a year, Loyola can immediately modify the ECR course to suit itself. In an effort to show good faith, the school continues to argue for dialogue and cooperation with the education department. To allay fears that the school is teaching some form of extremism, Loyola published some of it's course material on the web. If you have a chance, I highly recommend that you take a look at what the school is teaching, it shames the public version.
Picking up on the decision, Josée Legault the ultra-nationalist separatist journalist has proposed a simple way to get around those irritable Supreme Court decisions.
She suggests that each time a law is ruled illegal, a new law, similar to the last, be passed by the government. Any further contestation would take years and years to wind up the legal system and when that law is ultimately overturned, the process could be started all over again. She has labelled this as legal terrorism.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the course of action the government is adopting with the proposal of Bill 103, a law created to replace that which was thrown out by the Supreme Court. That law is even more coercive than what it replaced.
Of course there's the old NOTWITHSTANDING CLAUSE, a shameful device created to appease provincial governments to sign on to the Constitution in 1982. It actually allows a provincial government to override a Supreme Court ruling for a period up to five years, in order, ostensibly, to maintain the British tradition of giving Parliament the ultimate say and so, as a last resort the government can always opt out of a decision after losing in court, a situation that makes suing the government even riskier.
It's hard to undertake a long legal challenge, knowing that even if you win in the highest court in the land, you can still be deprived of the benefits of your victory.
Sovereignist and nationalist groups have undertaken an organized assault to denigrate the Supreme Court, portraying it as an unelected Anglo preserve of Quebec-bashers.
Mario Beaulieu of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste and a group of his cohorts, have taken to Montreal's metro dressed in Supreme court garb to lampoon and trash the institution, blaming the court for taking Bill 101 apart one small piece at a time.
What they fail to remind Quebeckers is that every time a case is 'lost' in the Supreme Court of Canada, it has already been lost in Quebec's highest court. This inconvenient truth is never mentioned at all.
So the fantasy is woven that it is the Anglos who are denying Quebec their due. It's a dangerous concept considering that in most of these language cases, it is the government that drags the case to the Supreme Court after finding no remedy in Quebec.
The hypocrisy is infuriating and should be denounced.
The fact that both Quebec jurists and Ottawa jurists, both agree that these language laws are unconstitutional is not the narrative that militants want to spread and so the Supreme court alone is targeted in the most cynical and dishonest fashion.