Community / Press Release

EMSB seeks leave to appeal Bill 21 to the Supreme Court of Canada

Caryle admin and students
Montreal - Thursday, April 11, 2024

The English Montreal School Board intends to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal in the case of Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State.

On April 10 the Council of Commissioners voted to mandate the law firm, Power Law, to file on its behalf an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and, if granted, an appeal of the Québec Court of Appeal’s judgment of February 29, 2024 on Bill 21. 

The EMSB is challenging provisions of Bill 21 on the basis that they violate minority language education rights under Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as gender equality, protected under Section 28 of the Charter.

Previously, the EMSB had successfully argued before the Québec Superior Court that Bill 21 violated the section 23 right to management and control, by preventing English-language school boards from hiring teachers wearing religious symbols. That was struck down by the Québec Court of Appeal.

We maintain our original position that Bill 21 conflicts with our values and our mission and with those of all Quebecers as expressed in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,” said EMSB Chair Joe Ortona. “Its very adoption was contrary to our societal goal of promoting our peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic Quebec.”

Bill 21 came into force in 2019 and bars public-school teachers, government lawyers, judges and police officers from wearing religious symbols while at work. 

“This legislation prohibits our future primary and high school teachers, school principals and vice-principals from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions, while limiting the career advancement of our current employees,” said Mr. Ortona. “It prevents the EMSB from hiring teachers- including French teachers- in the context of a teacher shortage. Most importantly it sends a message of intolerance and exclusion to our students and their families.”

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines. Our network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at