Complaint lodged against Quebec chief justice hearing Bill 21 challenge

Court of Appeal of Quebec Chief Justice Nicole Duval Hesler. SOURCE Court of Appeal of Quebec

A formal complaint has been filed against the chief judge of Quebec's appeals court, accusing her of having a bias against Bill 21, the province's secularism law.

Dawson College historian and potential Parti Quebecois leadership candidate Frederic Bastien filed the complaint against Court of Appeal of Quebec Chief Justice Nicole Duval Hesler with the Canadian Judicial Council, arguing she should recuse herself from hearing the challenge to Bill 21, the CAQ government's secularism law.

The complaint comes after hearings before Quebec's highest court Tuesday.

"The chief justice breached her duty of confidentiality for several reasons and she should recuse herself," Bastien posted on his Facebook wall.

Bastien first criticizes the fact that Duval Hesler has agreed to speak at the Lord Reading Law Society Dec. 10 at a Human Rights Dinner. Her talk is titled "Avoiding Conflict of Interest at the Court of Appeal." The society is a collective of Jewish jurists who have taken a stance against Quebec's ban on wearing religious garb or symbols for those in positions of authority such as teachers.

"The appearance of impartiality is undermined by this participation," Bastien argued. "The judge helps fund an organization that actively opposes legislation that is the subject of litigation in its court."

Secondly, Bastien cites Hesler Duval's Sep. 19, 2011 paper "L'Evolution du droit a l'egalite et l'elimination des prejuges inconscients chez les juges en matiere d'egalite" presented at a Seminar on the Canadian and Québec Charters of Rights and Freedoms of the Court of Québec.

"In it, she makes political statements and participates in a political debate by saying, in particular, that 'the discourse on the negative consequences of multiculturalism cannot lead anywhere' and that 'one cannot dictate the end of multiculturalism, nor can we ignore the need to accommodate our minorities,'" Bastien writes.

Bastien also criticized the justice's Aug. 21 suggestion at a preparatory meeting for a Bill 21 case before the courts that the law might violate Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The behaviour is completely inappropriate," wrote Bastien.

The applicants challenging the law argued on Section 28, which guarantees equal rights for both sexes, Tuesday in the Court of Appeal before Justice Duval Hesler.

The applicants did not raise this objection in the Superior Court in July.

Bastien argues that Duval Hesler gave the applicants an argument to use in their case.

Bastien also claims the judge "associated Bill 21 with a response to 'visual allergies' to religious symbols, which equates supporters of the law with sick people," according to his complaint.

He also writes that she should not have asked the province's lawyer if he wore a religious symbol.

Bastien also complains that Duval-Hesler calling herself a "feminist" on Nov. 26, 2019 is an expression of a political opinion.

"For all these reasons, Judge Duval Hesler should recuse herself and if she does not do so, the (Quebec) Attorney General, Ms. Sonia Lebel, should suggest that she do," Bastien concludes.

Duval Hesler promised to render a decision by Apr. 7, 2020, but it is possible that the decision will come before the holidays.