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Canadian groups appeal decision not to stay Quebec ban on religious symbols

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By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) – Two Canadian civil liberties groups said on Tuesday they filed an appeal in a Montreal court to a Quebec judge’s decision not to stay a provincial ban on the wearing of religious symbols by public employees.

The decision by Justice Michel Yergeau in Quebec’s Superior Court on July 17 “contains a number of important errors of law,” the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said in a joint news release.

The groups had sought an interim stay of the ban on June 18, a day after it was enacted, in order to keep it from taking effect while a constitutional challenge was being debated in the courts.

NCCM and CCLA must now wait for a court to approve their motion to appeal, then the appeal itself will be litigated.

The ban, passed by the Quebec legislature, prohibits public sector employees – including teachers, police, judges and prison guards – from wearing religious symbols, such as kippahs, hijabs and crosses.

It was met with an international outcry, including condemnation from politicians across Canada.

“It is not acceptable to hang signs telling certain people they are not welcome in stores, beaches, parks, or workplaces,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA’s equality program director.

“A law that excludes people because of who they are and how they dress is both absurd and abhorrent – it has no place in a society that values justice, equality and freedom. This is why we fight,” Aviv said.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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