I am convinced that if Justin Trudeau seems obsessed with attacking provincial power to overrule the charter, it is largely due to Bill 21. Regulating the wearing of religious symbols in its multicultural world is simply not an option. Since that day he has been preparing a counter-offensive.
Law 96 protecting the French and Doug Ford’s recent project to limit the right to strike served as an excuse to find his angle of attack.
According to him, the provinces are abusing the impatience clause. The great sage of the covenant, guardian of truth and guardian of good manners, must step in to oversee them.
Justin Trudeau hates Bill 21 for ideological reasons. Restrictions on religious freedom will never suit him, not even in the name of state secularism. In addition, his offensive seemed politically profitable to him.
Leaving the ideologies aside, however, Bill 21 must be seen as a real achievement for Quebec society.
Almost four years after its passage, the Secularism Act has established a balance, a relative social peace, on this thorny issue.
While this legislation is not perfect, it has turned more than a decade of disagreements and tensions on its head.
Remember the improper accommodation debate, which was actually a recognition that improper accommodation had become the norm.
Overwhelmed by the situation, Jean Charest commissioned the Bouchard-Taylor Commission to find possible solutions.
The commission provided useful clarifications on the issue of housing and recommended the banning of religious symbols for government employees in positions of authority.
A decade of pirouettes and political failures followed. Jean Charest tried to shelve this report, which was dividing his party. Then the PQ presented its charter of values, a poorly measured effort that never bore fruit.
Then the Couillard government passed an incomplete Open Public Services Act.
By the time François Legault was elected, the file had become complicated. Law No. 21 on Secularism managed to provide a balanced response by enacting the Bouchard-Taylor Report eleven years later.
The result is positive. There has been no mass exodus of future teachers or future police officers.
Some conformed to the law, some no doubt chose a different path and refused to give up their religious dress. But none of the announced catastrophes materialized.
Since the law was passed, controversies surrounding religious symbols have largely disappeared from day-to-day politics.
The line is drawn in relation to the wearing of religious symbols, that’s clear, and we don’t talk about it anymore, if not very little.
This is the kind of social peace a government strives for.
Bill 21 created that balance. Today it’s Justin Trudeau who wants to push back the anger by reopening the whole debate.