Former Canadian Bar President condemns Bill 60 - Bernard Amyot calls it a “vindictive act”

By Beryl Wajsman on February 11, 2014

Former Canadian Bar President Bernard Amyot, a leading Montreal lawyer and frequent commentator in the written and electronic media on issues of social justice, has come out strongly against the PQ’s Bill 60. Amyot’s positions have often moved issues and he felt compelled to speak out in the midst of the National Assembly hearings on the contentious legislation.

Amyot told The Métropolitain that, “All my professional life I have made respect for the rule of law the hallmark of my public engagement. The reason is simple. Our social cohesion, and the protection of our democratic values depends strongly on the fidelity we evidence towards the rule of law and due process, which fidelity obliges elected officials to work within established parameters - within the rules of the game if you like - that protect the equity and equality of all citizens.”

Amyot_Bernard.jpgHe made the point that it was principally for this reason that he feels compelled to condemn the “Values Charter” – Bill 60 .  “In fact,” Amyot said, “ The Parti québécois government has focused on using all the weapons that are most dangerous to a healthy democracy and its public discourse : divisive populism, demagoguery, the perpetuation of ‘fear of the other,’ imposition of the tyranny of the majority against minorities, and contempt for fundamental rights recognized in both the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Rights.” 

Amyot believes the tactics currently utilized by the PQ are normally beyond the pale in any democratic society that truly respects the rule of law. He went on to state that, “In truth, the ‘Chartre’ constitutes a bad solution to a false, and non-existant, problem.”

He feels that the Minister responsible for this legislation, Bernard Drainville, is totally incapable of offering any reason or evidence that would underlie the necessity for legislation so draconian.  “How many times,” Amyot asked, “ have we heard from this Minister and this government that this Bill is necessary to stop the ‘malaise’ in the population of Québec of wearing ostentatious symbols of religious observance? Yet where is their proof of this ‘malaise’? And how do they justify calling it that?”

Amyot challenged the use of the word at all. He is challenging the PQ to demonstrate a justification for a government supposedly respectful of fundamental rights proposing to violate those same rights in the name of what it terms a “malaise.”  And of this “malaise” he asked rhetorically, was it not just the presumption of the government that a majority of Quebecers don’t like religious symbols? And even if that were true, the Charters are there “specifically to protect minorities from the irrational prejudices of the majority.”

“The Charters, Quebec as well as Canadian, serve as  ramparts against reprehensible acts and demands of the majority that infringe on individual prerogative,” Amyot declared. “ The Charters exist to protect religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities from any and all vindictive acts of the majority, whether those acts are motivated by prejudice, sophistry or fear of the other.”

Amyot believes that if Bill 60 did ever become law it would undoubtedly be the target of court challenges and will be found to be unconstitutional. At a minimum, he feels, of violating protection of religious freedom provisions and equality rights. He is also adamant that this Bill could not meet the four criteria – commonly called the ‘Oakes’ test – necessary to even consider any infringement of Charter rights. These four include: a real and urgent threat; minimal constraint of violated rights; a rational connection between the goal and the law; and proportionality.

He also criticized the government for maintaining a pretense of respecting constitutional rules and protections, while at the same time inciting a populist campaign “heavily laced with the taste of xenophobia.”

Amyot declared that his revulsion at this Bill and the conduct of the PQ in promoting it, was a major deciding factor in his entering the political arena. He is currently seeking the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination in the new downtown federal riding of Ville-Marie. Amyot has served as Chairman of Brébeuf College for six years, was a director of the Montreal Symphony and in 2012 was named Chair of the National Theatre School of Canada. He is also a recipient of the Queen`s Jubilee Medal.


Please login to post comments.

Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

Senior Editor

Daniel Laprès


Robert J. Galbraith


Roy Piberberg

Editorial Artwork

Mike Medeiros

Copy and Translation

Val Prudnikov

IT Director and Web Design

Editorial Contributors
La Patrie