201006 Quebec
A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Montreal: A court challenge of Quebec’s secularism law began on Monday with a Muslim woman testifying that the ban on public servants wearing religious symbols at work in the Canadian province derailed her teaching career.

Quebec last year legislated the ban on wearing a crucifix, yarmulke or hijab, as well as enshrined into law a previously adopted rule that denies government services to people wearing face veils.

According to public broadcaster CBC, lead plaintiff Ichrak Nourel Hak testified that the law made her “feel excluded from Quebec society.”

“I am a Muslim woman, but I am also a Quebec citizen,” she reportedly told the Quebec Superior Court.

She explained that she’d hoped to work at a public school after graduating from a local university with a teaching degree, but could not because she did not wish to remove her hijab.

Instead, she took a position at a private school.

Her lawsuit is backed by the the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which at a news conference called the ban “cruel and callous.”

The measure applies to police, teachers and others in positions of authority and targets all religious symbols, but has affected Muslim women in particular.

Observers said they expect the fight to go all the way to Canada’s top court.

Expecting a court challenge, however, Quebec’s government made it clear from the start that it would invoke a rarely-used constitutional clause to quash any successful rights challenges.