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WSO Granted Permission To Intervene In Roman Catholic School’s Fight To Teach Religious Course

The WSO`s intervention inLoyola is the third time that theorganization will be appearingbefore the Supreme Court ofCanada. In 2004, WSO intervenedin Syndicat Northcrest v.Amselem, on behalf of the Jewishcommunity`s rights to religiousfreedom, and in 2005, WSO intervenedin Multani v. Commissionscolaire Marguerite Bourgeoyswith respect to the right of a Sikhstudent to wear his kirpan atschool.

OTTAWAA – The World SikhOrganization of Canada ispleased to announce that onJanuary 16, 2014, the SupremeCourt of Canada granted theorganization leave to intervenein the case of Québec(Procureur général) v. LoyolaHigh School. The Loyolaappeal will be heard in March2014.Loyola High School is a privateRoman Catholic institution inQuebec, which has been deniedthe right to teach its own worldreligions course. The QuebecGovernment has asserted thatbecause Loyola’s course istaught from a faith-based perspective,it is in violation of theQuebec education curriculum.The Government of Quebechas ordered Loyola to teach theprovince’s Ethics and ReligiousCulture (ERC) course whichtreats religion as a cultural phenomenonrather than a spiritualjourney.Although the Quebec SuperiorCourt found that the provincialgovernment violated theschool’s right to freedom of religionas guaranteed by theQuebec Charter of Rights, theQuebec Court of Appeal overturnedthe decision.The Loyola case has raisedimportant issues about freedomof religion in Canada, mostimportantly whether Charterrights are to be afforded only toindividuals or whether organizationsand private institutions canalso claim protection.The Loyola case comes duringthe throes of the debate surroundingthe proposed Quebec“Charter of Values” and will address issues related to therights of religious groups and the roleof secularism in Quebec.Palbinder Kaur Shergill, General LegalCounsel for WSO said, “The Loyolacase raises the issue of whether religiousorganizations are also affordedthe protection of the Charter. Webelieve it is essential that strong protectionsexist for collective religious freedom,especially for minority religiousgroups, which are more vulnerable togovernment interference in their internalfunctioning. As the only non-Christian religious organization to beintervening in this case, we will bebringing an important perspective tothe Supreme Court of Canada on thismatter.”Mukhbir Singh, WSO’s Quebec VP,said, “the Supreme Court of Canada`sdecision in Loyola will directly affectthe Sikh community. Our community’sinstitutions, whether they are gurdwarasor Khalsa schools are all organizationswhich must be protected fromstate interference. The Quebec government’sposition that private religiousinstitutions should be forced toteach religion from a non-faith basedperspective is clearly problematic. Webelieve that this approach erodes thevery essence of what it means to be aperson of faith in Quebec, and acrossCanada.”The WSO has a strong reputation foradvancing the rights of both Sikh andnon-Sikh groups. The WSO`s interventionin Loyola is the third time that theorganization will be appearing beforethe Supreme Court of Canada. In2004, WSO intervened in SyndicatNorthcrest v. Amselem, on behalf ofthe Jewish community`s rights to religiousfreedom, and in 2005, WSOintervened in Multani v. Commissionscolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys withrespect to the right of a Sikh student towear his kirpan at school.

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