News / Canada

Quebec woman ordered by judge to remove hijab seeks legal clarification

MONTREAL — Lawyers for a woman who was denied a court appearance because of her hijab were back in court Thursday seeking a legal opinion on the rights of Quebecers who want access to justice while wearing religious attire.

Rania El-Alloul's lawyer appeared in Quebec Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgement that would clarify that litigants have the right to wear a hijab or other religious attire in court.

"We're seeking a declaration that what happened is wrong and she has the right to wear the hijab," constitutional lawyer Julius Grey told The Canadian Press after the hearing.

The judge did not immediately issue a ruling on Thursday's arguments and no timeline was given for a decision.

In February, 2015, Quebec court Judge Eliana Marengo told El-Alloul that her case involving the province's automobile insurance board and her impounded vehicle would not proceed as long as she was wearing the hijab.

She refused to remove it and the judge put the case off. It was ultimately settled when the car was returned.

Grey said on Thursday that he believes the Marengo's decision regarding the hijab violated his client's charter rights, but said opposing lawyers argued that the issue could not be settled by a declaratory judgment. 

He said a judicial complaint he and another lawyer filed against Marengo on El-Alloul's behalf was rejected in February.

A spokesperson for the body that investigates judicial complaints would not confirm this information or any other details of the case, citing confidentiality.

El-Alloul, who was present for the proceedings, has been doing well since last year's high-profile proceedings, Grey said. 

"She is a strong lady and she has held up very well since it happened," he said.

Last year El-Alloul refused more than $50,000 raised on her behalf through a crowdfunding campaign, suggesting the money be used to tell others' stories.

Despite her complaint being rejected, Grey said his client is still very interested in having her rights declared.

"She's doing it on principle," he said. "She's doing it because what happened was wrong."