Quebec’s ethics and religion course does not violate Charter: Supreme Court


A course on ethics and religion taught in Quebec schools since 2008 does not infringe on students’ religious freedoms, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, meaning the students can’t opt out it. The ruling settles a dispute brought forward by two parents who had wanted to exempt their children from the course, which covers history of ethics and the different religions found in Quebec, and confirms a 2009 decision by Quebec’s Superior Court.

As the CBC reports, Madam Justice Marie Deschamps wrote in the ruling: “Exposing children to a comprehensive presentation of various religions without forcing the children to join them does not constitute an indoctrination of students that would infringe the freedom of religion of L and J [the appellants].”

The Supreme Court decision was unanimous. However, as La Presse reports, judges Louis Lebel and Morris Fish expressed some reservations. Lebel wrote an opinion warning that the course does risk trivializing and disrespecting some people’s beliefs.

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Quebec’s ethics and religion course does not violate Charter: Supreme Court

  1. quebec is a shame for all Canadians

    • Good for Quebec!

  2. It would be interesting to know what the course covered and where the lines are drawn in what types of topics are covered in the course. Also, how old are these children? Are they teaching elementary school who haven’t had the beliefs (or lack of beliefs) of their family firmly rooted in their life or are these high school kids who know what their family stands for? There is a difference. I thought that Canada took a stand years ago about teaching religion in the schools. I grew up in NL and I remember when the churches and any mention of religious studies was taken out of the system. Seems a little strange to bring it back only to bring forth the negative. It seems that instead of promoting real ethics we have an “everything is okay” mentality.

    • All it has to do is introduce the wide breadth of religions that students will encounter and can choose from (or against). There’s no need for excessive criticism in such a course: religions are good at indicting themselves. The “everything is OK” mentality is, of course, an expression of individual freedom, usually a vaunted ideal.

    • I might be off base but if the Justice is correct and the course is a “history of ethics and religion in Quebec” it does make sense.  You cannot ignore the impact of the church in the history of Quebec..it would be like re-writing textbooks in the US to make slavery less of an issue in their history.  I think the point is that it is a history class, not a religion class…that suggests that teach the facts…there won’t be any prayer going on.

    • People who decry “situational ethics” fail to realize that ethics, by their very nature, are situational. Lawyers and doctors face different situations; therefore, they have a slightly different Code of Ethics, though the ethics of both professions may be grounded in the Ten Commandments and Greco-Roman Law. 

      It isn’t that “everything is okay”; doctors and lawyers are different professions and play by different rules.

      Nothing wrong with putting on hockey skates for a hockey game, but basketball players and football players don’t need them. 

  3. The Quebec Ethics and Religious Culture course teaches about all of the major world religions.  The opposition from some parents is based on the fact that they want their children to remain ignorant of others.  I would abolish this course simply because religion should be taught by the family, and other school subjects are short on time (English, Phys.ed, Math, etc(

    • We have the right to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. Every student, notwithstanding their family, has the right to basic information about themselves and the society they live in. Once students are informed about the existence of different religions, parents may offer their own opinions about said religions to their children.

  4. Correct decision. It is society, represented by a school board, that decides the curriculum in the public schools. That’s why they’re called schools, not cafeterias,

  5. It shouldn’t be the role of public schools to teach religion; that’s why Catholic churches have catechism and Protestants have Sunday school. 

    Because of public education, the literacy rate in Canada is about 99 percent. While some people may be “functionally illiterate,” that’s a huge difference from being actually illiterate, because people who are illiterate can’t read at all. 

    There are religious fanatics all over the world who want to make the state an extension of the church (or the mosque and the synagogue). If they can’t deal with their children being exposed to other religions, maybe they should just withdraw from the world and prepare their children for jobs as floor sweepers; we will always need people who can push a broom.

  6. As far as I’m concerned, Quebec has discrimination and Apartheid very similar to what South Africa had against blacks, discrimination against Anglos.

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