In a 2-1 decision on Thursday, the majority judges ruled that the Laicity bill does not discriminate against women in general and noted that the appellants are limiting the debate regarding one section of the bill to the Islamic headscarf and the full-face veil.
The judges also cited Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, colloquially known as the notwithstanding clause, which allows federal, provincial or territorial governments to temporarily override, or bypass, certain Charter rights.
All three judges, including the lone dissenting voice, agreed that 'irreparable harm' would be done to individuals like one of the appellants in the case, Ichrak Nourel Hak, who argued that the law forces her to choose between her dream and the preservation of her identity. However, the majority justices argued that the unconstitutionality of the legislation could not be proven.
The bill has elicited widespread condemnation across the nation, and Manitoba's government has gone so far as to offer Quebecers affected by the law to relocate to the Prairie province.
In June, Quebec's National Assembly adopted the Laicity of the State Act, also known as Bill 21, which prohibits public sector workers from donning religious symbols. On 18 July, a Montreal superior court judge dismissed the stay of two sections of the bill which are at the centre of the legal challenge.