Canada rights groups may appeal judge's decision not to stay ban on religious clothing

TORONTO (Reuters) - Two Canadian civil rights organizations said on Thursday they have been allowed to appeal a Quebec judge's decision not to stay a provincial ban here on religiously affiliated symbols.

The controversial Bill 21, which has been championed by the governing right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec, bars employees in the public sector - including teachers, prosecutors and police officers - from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, turbans and kippas in the workplace.

It ignited international outrage when it was passed into law in June.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) immediately filed lawsuits against it. They endured a setback in July when Justice Michel Yergeau declined to issue an immediate stay against the law, stating it was unusual for a court to do so against a law enacted by the legislature.

It is this decision which they are appealing, and it is separate from their ongoing constitutional challenge of the ban, which has not yet been heard.

“We know this is an important victory that gives hope to those who are affected by this law as their livelihoods remain at risk for no other reason than their faith,” NCCM Deputy Director Nadia Hasan said in a statement.

The CCLA said it was unclear when the appeal would be heard.

Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Bernadette Baum