Bill 21: premier says he'll 'take measures' against those who disobey law

Well-known constitutional lawyer Julius Grey says engaging in civil disobedience as a way of fighting Bill 21 is justified — but members of the Legault government are suggesting there might be consequences if that happens.

A number of politicians at the municipal level have suggested they won't abide by the law, including the mayors of Cote St. Luc, Montreal West, Westmount and the borough mayor of Cote-des-Neiges-NDG.

The English Montreal and Lester B. Pearson school boards, meanwhile, say they won't enforce the religious symbols ban, either.

Grey told CJAD 800's Elias Makos on Tuesday says there are many people in the province whose conscience won't allow them to abide by the law, and in that case, civil disobedience becomes justified.

"It has to be rare, and it has to be special, and the test is, does it violate the conscience?" Grey said. "There is a situation in which one could see that some people are going to say, 'I cannot conscientiously follow this law.'"

Grey is also suggesting using tactics of civil disobedience have helped bring about change in the past, in both Canada and the United States.

'We will take measures': Legault

Speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Premier François Legault says Bill 21 will be enforced, one way or another. Legault told reporters at the National Assembly on Tuesday that he's confident that Quebecers — including the municipal and school board authorities who've stated they'll defy the law — will eventually fall in line and accept it.

"I'm very confident that those people will apply the law," Legault said. "If they don't, we will take measures."

Legault refused to answer several followup questions from reporters as to what those measures would be.

His public security minister Geneviève Guilbault, meanwhile, suggested police could be called on those who break the law, but about an hour later, was forced to walk thoses comments back. She re-emerged, essentially repeating Legault's line about how confident she was that Quebecers would eventually get around to complying with the law.

Justice minister Sonia LeBel, meanwhile, said she was "troubled" by the call to civil disobedience, saying such a call crosses a line in a democratic society.

The United Nations?

Meanwhile, Grey suggests if the Legault government pre-emptively invokes the notwithstanding clause to squelch any potential constitutional challenges to Bill 21, then opponents of the law may have recourse at the United Nations.

"The remedy to the United Nations might or might not work," Grey said, "but it did work against Mr. Bourassa's Bill 178."

Bill 178 was the 1988 law brough in by the then-Liberal government of Robert Bourassa which allowed English commercial signs in Quebec — but only inside businesses. It maintained that French would continue to predominate outdoors. It came about after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Bill 101's restrictions on English signs.

The sign rules changed again in 1993, with Bill 86, which allowed for outdoor English — as long as French was predominant.