Bill 21 as an exemplar of the fragility of tolerance

Dan Mamlok*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In June 2019, Québec passed Bill 21, entitled: ‘An Act respecting the laicity of the State’. This bill bans public servants from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. Among the affected employees are judges, teachers, and government officers. This paper considers the ethical ramifications of Bill 21 on education. Particularly, this paper examines some prime arguments for and against abridging religious rights for teachers and public servants. Then, the paper explicates the immanent tension between the desire to advance tolerance and the exercise of intolerant practices against minorities. In this sense, the case of Bill 21 exemplifies the fragility of tolerance. Drawing from Dewey’s pragmatic understanding and agonistic models of democracy, the concluding section of this paper argues for the development of a more inclusive understanding of tolerance that will offer students educational experience and encourage them to constantly consider their predispositions and biases towards the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • Tolerance
  • agonism
  • citizenship education
  • democracy and education
  • political emotions
  • pragmatism
  • secularism


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