Religious freedom, language rights cases hit Supreme Court this week
Quebec's "totalitarian" ethics and religion curriculum and official bilingualism will both be up for debate at Supreme Court of Canada hearings in two separate cases this week.
On Monday, the court will hear a complaint against the Quebec government from Montreal's Loyola High School over the provincially mandated Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum.
Quebec imposed the curriculum that "does not espouse any particular set of beliefs or moral references" on all public and private schools in 2008 - something to which the private Jesuit boy's school objects.
Loyola says its teachers will have to suppress their Roman Catholic faith when teaching ERC courses.
In its factum to the Court, Loyola argues that Quebec can not "force a Catholic school to cease being Catholic by being obliged to teach ethics and its own religious tradition from a standpoint which is disengaged from that tradition."
Quebec's attorney general says the ERC curriculum has to be the same for all in order to foster social peace.
It also says in documents submitted to the Court that the curriculum "does not hinder the possibility for the appellant to supplement the religious education of its students" with a separate course on Catholicism.
Loyola won its case before Quebec's Superior Court in 2010, which ruled the ERC curriculum "is totalitarian in nature," but the Quebec Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in 2012, forcing Loyola to appeal to the highest court in Canada.
The case has attracted several interveners, including the Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada.
It worries Quebec will compel even religious parents who educate their kids at home to adopt a "secular" outlook.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear the case of an Ottawa man who complained he wasn't able to order a 7-Up in French on an Air Canada flight.
Michel Thibodeau won his original case against the airline, arguing his right to be served in French was violated on flights he and his wife made between January and May 2009.
The Federal Court ruled that Air Canada failed in the Official Languages Act obligations it has as a former Crown corporation.
So, the Court ordered the airline to pay Thibodeau and his wife, Lynda, $12,000 in damages and cover their court costs.
However, the Federal Court of Appeal later overturned that decision and dropped the damages because the airline had made "significant efforts" to serve the Thibodeaus in French.
Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser launched an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of the Thibodeaus.
Thibodeau has a history of suing over language issues, winning a 2002 case against Air Canada over lack of service in French.
He has also complained about bilingualism in the City of Ottawa, offended that public transit bus drivers were only calling out street names in English and greeting passengers with "good morning," not "bonjour."
Ottawa's buses now have a bilingual automated stop announcement system that calls out, for example, both "Bank Street" and "Rue Bank."