The Challenges of a Secular Quebec. Bill 21 in Perspective.

Lucia Ferretti François Rocher


In 2019, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 21. It prohibits, among other things, certain state employees in positions of authority (including teachers, prison guards, police officers, and justices of the peace) from wearing religious symbols when providing public services. Most political commentators in English Canada denounced the move as running counter to Canadian multiculturalism and human rights. Why did the government adopt this particular form of state secularism? And why did it garner public support?

The Challenges of a Secular Quebec provides illuminating answers to these questions, exploring why many Quebecers consider the law legitimate. Contributors analyze the statute from different angles to provide a nuanced, respectful discussion of its intentions and principles. They open up debates on state religious neutrality, examine how political and social actors understand the concept, and trace the ways in which the issue has inserted itself into the Quebec social space.

Given the province’s singular history in North America, the merits of the initiative to separate church and state must be considered within the Quebec context. The Challenges of a Secular Quebec calls for a legal interpretation of Bill 21 that is sensitive to this difference.

This essential work will appeal not only to scholars and students of political science, sociology, law, and history but also to readers seeking to understand Quebec perspectives on Bill 21.


Cet ouvrage est la traduction du livre Les enjeux d’un Québec laïque : la loi 21 en perspective, publié chez Del Busso éditeur en 2020.

Ce livre contient aussi un chapitre rédigé par Patrick Taillon.

Ferretti, Lucia et François Rocher. 2023. The Challenges of a Secular Quebec. Bill 21 in Perspective, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 328 p.

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