Loyola High School, et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)




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Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Québec - Freedom of conscience and religion - Mandatory ethics and religious culture (“ERC”) program - Catholic school invoking freedom of conscience and religion in support of request for exemption to teach ERC subject using its own program - Request for exemption denied by Minister - Whether Appellant, as a religious educational institution, enjoys fundamental right of freedom of religion entrenched in s. 2a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 3 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Québec - Applicable standard of review - Whether Minister’s decision was defensible on applicable standard of review.

In 2008, the ERC program became mandatory in Quebec schools, replacing Catholic and Protestant programs of religious and moral instruction. Loyola High School (the “Appellant”) is a religious educational institution. It requested an exemption from the ERC program in order to continue to offer its own program pursuant to section 22 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Act respecting private education (R.R.Q., c. E-9.1, r. 1). An exemption is available where the institution dispenses programs of studies which the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports (the “Minister”) judges equivalent. The Minister denied the exemption on the basis that the Appellant’s program was not equivalent to the ERC program, inter alia on grounds that it is faith-based as opposed to cultural in its approach. The Appellant, along with co-Appellant John Zucchi in his capacity as tutor to his son, a student at the school at issue, brought a motion for judicial review seeking to quash the Minister’s decision and requesting an exemption from the ERC program as well as the right to teach its own program.

Lower Court Rulings

June 18, 2010
Superior Court of Quebec

Minister’s decision quashed; Applicant declared exempt from using the ERC program established by the Minister; and Applicant authorized to teach ERC subject using its own program.
December 4, 2012
Court of Appeal of Quebec (Montréal)

2012 QCCA 2139, 500-09-020854-105
Appeal allowed and Minister’s decision confirmed.