For every constitution there is an epic, for each decalogue a scripture. The controversy over the recitation of prayer at the sessions of the municipal council of the city of Saguenay laid bare the tensions between religious neutrality and historical identity that continue to play out in the constitutional politics of Quebec. At stake is control of the narrative of what Quebec was and is becoming, and thus control of the meaning of those symbols and norms that shape and direct its normative order.
Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City) is as much a case about constitutional doctrine as it is about the narrative of secularization in Canadian and (especially) Quebec society, and the ongoing displacement of a tacit Christian identity for a multicultural and civic ethos. In many ways, MLQ v. Saguenay is a distinctly Québécois controversy: It is the culmination of a long and often tumultuous struggle to define the place of Roman Catholicism in the civil and political life of the province after centuries of ecclesiastical hegemony and decades of reaction against this hegemony. The players in the drama were not new to the stage, but had been intervening in public life for years, most recently in the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences — the Bouchard-Taylor commission. The complaint that led to the actual case was originally brought before a forum charged with promoting the 1976 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms rather than the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And it was, of course, Quebec justices who most directly weighed in on the debate, all the way to Gascon J. who wrote for the majority in the Supreme Court.
Muñiz-Fraticelli, Víctor M..
"Mouvement laïque québécois v Saguenay: Neutrality and Narrative."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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