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The Loyola High School v. Quebec (Attorney General) 2015 case occurred between a private Catholic school and the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports, who introduced a mandatory curriculum (Ethics and Religious Culture) requiring the school to teach their students about the beliefs and ethics of various world religions from a neutral, secular point of view.
Under s.22 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Act respecting private education, Loyola applied for an exemption from the ERC Program and created two alternative course curriculums covering covered the subject areas from a Catholic perspective. The Minister denied this request on the basis of Loyola’s alternative program being heavily dependent on Catholic beliefs, which contradicted the aspect of neutrality that was a significant aspect of the program. Loyola High school believed that this violated their freedom to practice religion, and as a result, engaged in a lawsuit with the Minister.
After their failed requests for an alternative program, Loyola submitted an application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision. The Superior Court reasoned that Loyola’s right to religious freedom was breached when the Minister of Education denied their application for an exemption (Loyola High School v. Quebec, para.9). To remedy this, they disregarded the Minister’s denial of Loyola’s application and granted them an exemption. Through the Minister’s appeal, however, the Quebec Court of Appeal decided that their decision to deny Loyola High School’s application was practical, and did not infringe on their right to practice their religion freely. The Minister’s decision was reinstated, and Loyola was required to teach all of the aspects of the ERC program through a strictly secular perspective. When taken to the Supreme Court, however, the Quebec Court of Appeal’s ruling was overturned and the appeal for an exemption to the ERC Program was approved (Loyola High School v. Quebec, para.165).
The most prominent legal principle at stake in this case is the issue of religious freedom. Religious freedom is the belief that every individual has the right to practice, teach, observe, and worship the religion they choose; protected under s.2 of the Charter. This issue is prevalent in the lawsuit between Loyola High School and the Minister of Education as it’s the very core of what Loyola is aiming to preserve. Because Loyola is a Catholic school, its school curriculum is mainly focused on Catholicism and the Catholic outlook. The Minister’s enforcement of teaching the ERC Program through an objective lens disregards both the strong Catholic values of Loyola High School and the students and parents who have chosen this private Catholic high school for the purpose of gaining deeper knowledge of their religious beliefs.
The final decision in the case was ruled in favour Loyola High school, which meant that they would be granted an exempted from teaching the material from the ERC course from a completely objective perspective. The Supreme Court of Canada concluded that preventing Loyola high school from teaching from a Catholic perspective was violating their right to practice their religion freely. To ask a school based fundamentally upon their religious values to refrain from including these values in class not only proves unsuccessful in furthering the goals of the program but hinders their right to religious freedom.
The players in this case includes Loyola High School and the Minister of Education, as well as the lawyers, judges, and the courts. The nature of Loyola High school is connected intrinsically to religion, Catholicism to be particular. The nature of the Minister of Education involves the aim to teach students about ethics and religious cultures in an objective and morally neutral way through the ERC Program. The roles that Loyola and the Minister play can be observed from the perspective of the types of litigants. To categorize each player into the litigant typology, Loyola would be the one-shotters. These are parties who have a limited experience in lawsuits and recourse to the courts. The Minister of Education on the other hand would be classified as repeat players, who have history being in many of the same litigations and as a result have a decent amount of experience. There are four typologies for litigants, one of them being “one-shotter versus repeat player”. One-shotters “invoke outside help to create leverage on an organization with which the individual has a dispute.” (Vago and Nelson, p.219). In Loyola High School v. Quebec, Loyola was unable to reach a consensus that they were satisfied with, so they sought legal help from the Superior Court. This then escalated to hearings from the Quebec Court of Appeals and later the Supreme Court of Canada.
Among others, the judge is also a key player in not only this case, but all cases. The nature of the judge is to interpret the law in the context of the case presented and to make an impartial ruling. Though the aspect of impartiality is vital to the role of the judge, there can be and have been moments where judges have failed this key component. Judicial activism is when judges fail to omit their personal biases, perspectives, and beliefs when making decisions in a case, reading their own preferences into law. The judge’s role may affect the outcome in this case and shaping of law to benefit either Loyola or the Minister. An example of how judicial activism could come into play in this case is if the judge also practiced Catholicism. This in itself does not inherently prove that the judge would be biased, but would if he were to disregard the defendant’s argument and blindly bend the law in favour of Loyola. The judge could also, however, be partial towards the Minister for potential reasons such as being influenced by their organization. Lastly, the role of lawyers and the courts in a dispute resolution will be discussed. The nature of the lawyers is to advocate for their client, be it Loyola High School or the Minister. The courts are also used as a space to discuss these matters. There are two methods used to resolve disputes. The two parties could either come to an understanding or negotiation without the aid for a third party, or a third party will intervene and act as an objective mediator if the two parties are unable to reach a conclusion (Vago and Nelson, p.193). In the Loyola High School v. Quebec case, both of these methods of dispute resolutions were used. Before they went to court, Loyola attempted to solve the conflict themselves through applying for an exemption as well as creating an alternative course plan. This was unsuccessful, however, which resulted in Loyola and the Minister of Education gathering their lawyers to the Superior Court as well as the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, so the third party (the judge) could determine which of the disputants had the stronger claim.
The various interveners that were listed on the case included many religious groups as well as some educational organizations. I believe that the interests of the interveners in the case might be primarily revolved around religion as well as vested interests in some of the interveners. Upon reading the list of interveners, you see many groups which are driven by their religious values, such as the Canadian council of Christian Charities, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, etc. These groups are tied by their relationship with religion, and though they might have different faiths, they act as interveners because of their interest in this case of a possible infringement of religious freedom. The World Sikh Organization of Canada, for instance, do not share the same religious beliefs and cultural values and as a result do not have a direct relation with the case at hand. They however felt they should enter this lawsuit because of the Minister’s unjust rejection of an exemption. Some interveners might also have vested interest in this case, to involve themselves because it either affects them personally or because they might have something to gain from it. An example of this is the intervener “association des parents catholiques du Quebec”. This group consists of Catholic parents who might have kids in high school who attend Loyola. They then have a vested interest in this case because they might want their child to learn about ethics and different world religions from a Catholic perspective. By choosing to intervene, they give the lawsuit a new perspective. We can see through this association what the parents think about the Minister of Education’s strict insistence on the secular perspective of the ERC Program. We know the nature of Loyola High School who have to teach the ERC Program, as well as the Minister of Education who requires the ERC Program. The voice omitted in this equation is the voice of students and their parents, however, with this associations decision to intervene, we can determine how the students feel about the neutrality ERC Program and how it affects them. We can also see how parents feel about having Catholicism strictly omitted when they sent their child to a school because it was taught through Catholic beliefs. The role of the interveners is significant because they not only support the plaintiff’s argument but also bring attention to the wrongdoings of the organization in question.
After evaluating the details of the case, I agree with the court’s decision to grant Loyola High School an exemption. As mentioned in the case, Loyola High School was founded upon Catholicism, and so it is not only what sets it apart from being a regular high school but their faith is also a fundamental aspect of their identity (Loyola High School v. Quebec, para.14). I believe it was unjust for the Minister of Education to fail to take into consideration the various outliers who may take issue with teaching ethics and religious culture through a secular lens when discussing the framework of the program, such as various denominational schools. Furthermore, they were at fault for not attempting to reach a proper resolution with Loyola before the need for a third party. Loyola had not only asked for an exemption but proposed two alternative course curriculums, which were both denied. By denying all of their attempts to negotiate, I believe the Minister infringed upon Loyola’s right to religious freedom. Everyone has the right to practice and teach their religion and faith. Loyola High School has experience and history with teaching Catholicism and school subjects from the Catholic perspective. The Ministers suspicions of the ERC Program being taught disrespectfully or in a way that glorifies Catholicism is unwarranted as Loyola stated from the beginning that although they would teach the course from a Catholic perspective, they would have teach these other religions and ethics with respect. I believe that forcing Loyola to teach the ERC Program from an objective perspective only will be ineffective and even detrimental to the goals of the Minister. The teachers at Loyola are accustomed to bringing their Catholic faith into various classroom discussions on a daily basis. When told to remain neutral on important topics such as ethics and religious culture, the teachers are left to either remain neutral and disingenuous while teaching these topics, or they can remain silent (Loyola High School v. Quebec, para.159). Both of these forms of teaching are disadvantageous to the students, who wont learn well, and the Minister, as the class time is not being used in a productive and dynamic manner.
Through the analysis of the Loyola High School v. Quebec case, we learned about the various factors that come into effect when an individual group pursues a lawsuit with an organization, such as the nature of the various players as well as the role of the interveners. This gives us more insight as to why certain stages in the case occurred.
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