Holley on secularism and Bill 60

3 PM. Rob Holley gives his paper “Secularism and Bill 60.” IMG_1461





This paper aims to explore and analyze notions of secularism that surround Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values. I argue that, through Bill 60, Quebec misunderstands notions of neutrality and the purpose of secular liberal states. I follow Charles Taylor’s interpretation of secularism that aims to maximize three democratic goals of liberty, equality and fraternity. I argue that Quebec and Bill 60 fails to properly achieve these goals in its understanding of the function of a secular state. Furthermore, I argue that, through Quebec’s understanding of secularism and neutrality, Bill 60 unjustly discriminates against specific comprehensive doctrines and ends up violating the fundamental liberal rights to freedom of conscience, belief, and expression of individuals who adhere to those doctrines.

Peetush: Bill 60 had a caveat, it did not apply to First Nations peoples. Why do you think that was?

Holley: If they were to include First Nations, if they did not include that caveat, I think it wouldn’t have stood a chance.  I think it was in their own self interest. Real politic.

Michael: I’m interested to hear what your take on the public funding of Catholic schools in Ontario is, would your paper have implications for this?

Rob: Yes, my point was that certain minorities are unfairly targeted because the  ‘cultural history’ rationale allows Bill 60 to exempt for reasons of ‘cultural history’ certain practices and symbols, while unfairly targeting others. One could consider the situation in Ontario in these terms…

Ashwani: What do you think of this argument: Marois and members of the PQ used to argue that the rationale for Bill 60 was to ensure women’s equality?

Rob: No comprehensive doctrine can violate fundamental rights.  For Marois and the PQ to stick their thumbs into these comprehensive doctrines beyond the Charter… they need to be resolved internally…

Considerable discussion ensued on this point, and Behrendt asked just what counts as a comprehensive doctrine, do political ideals count? There were still a lot of questions and comments, but we had to thank Rob for an engaging talk and move on to our final presentation of the day…



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