"It Doesn’t Work!": The Symbolic Aspect of Law, From the Criminal Law to Bill 21

(2020) 9:6 Directions 1

20 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Phil Lord

Phil Lord

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law; McGill University - Faculty of Law; York University - Osgoode Hall Law School


This article uses an analytical framework from the criminal law to analyse Quebec’s Bill 21. It analyses denunciation, an important principle in the criminal law, and describes its analytical framework. It then applies this framework to Bill 21. From a historical analysis of the importance of state secularism in Quebec, it reframes the debate regarding Bill 21 and paints Bill 21 as a symbolic and constitutive act. Bill 21 allows Quebecers to break free from an oppressive past defined by the confluence of church and state. As a symbolic act, it constitutes and consolidates a shared identity. It is underlain by shared anxieties regarding potential threats to this identity. By developing a criminal law framework, this article suggests, although tangentially, that the importance of the symbolic and constitutive aspects of law transcends the criminal law.

Keywords: Quebec, Bill 21, Secularism, State Secularism, Discrimination, Islam, Religion, Law and Religion, Hijab, Criminal Law, Quiet Revolution, Grande Noirceur

Suggested Citation

Lord, Phil, "It Doesn’t Work!": The Symbolic Aspect of Law, From the Criminal Law to Bill 21. (2020) 9:6 Directions 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3631336

Phil Lord (Contact Author)

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law ( email )

18 Antonine-Maillet Ave
Moncton, NB E1A 3E9

HOME PAGE: http://www.mylawyer.ca

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal, QC H3A 1W9

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

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