Pascale Fournier authors three academic publications

Pascale Fournier recently authored three chapters in different academic books, all to be published this summer. While these three contributions pertain to minority women’s religious rights, each one addresses a specific issue and discusses its underlying questions.

First, she authors (in collaboration with Erica See) “The ‘Naked Face’ of Secular Exclusion: Bill-94 and the Privatization of Belief”, a chapter in Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies, (University of Toronto Press:Toronto, 2014) edited by Solange Lefebvre and Lori Beaman. This chapter  focuses on Bill 94 (Loi établissant les balises encadrant les demandes d’accommodement dans l’Administration gouvernementale et dans certains établissements) submitted in 2010 by the Quebec government under Jean Charest, following the saga of reasonable accommodations and the ensuing recommendations of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on how to best resolve this delicate issue.

Fournier addresses the place that Quebec’s laïcité crisis occupies in a larger debate surrounding secularism in Western societies and the distributive effects that would result from the proposed legislative measures, more specifically the discriminatory effects on minority groups. She is also interested in the public opinion towards this bill and the ideologies and discursive chains fueling various positions, especially those pertaining to gender equality. They question the signification of the bill as a turning point in Quebec politics: the triumph of a feminist movement that is the pride of La Belle Province or the last strike of patriarchy that stigmatizes a group of minority women ? These questions remain relevant and timely as now that the Liberals have recently returned to power, the bill is likely to resurface in a near future.

Professor Fournier also published (in collaboration with Régine Tremblay), “Translating Religious Principles into German Law: Boundaries and Contradictions” in Comparative Law: Engaging Translation (Routledge : Abingdon, 2014), edited by Simone Glanert. This contribution is anchored in a burgeoning literature  that looks at the intersection between religious norms and secular laws. Relying on fieldwork conducted among German Jewish and Muslim women, Fournier takes a close look at the tangible interaction between religious norms and German civil law, a process that unveils lines far more blurry than what suggests most academic works which insist on tracing bold lines between two watertight compartments. Accordingly, the mutual permeability of civil law and religious law might be explained by the large discretion that characterizes religious procedures as well as their informality. Fournier studies the various factors that regulate  the application of religious norms, often wrongly perceived as harmonious, and suggest that they are in fact subject to the interests pursued by parties and adjudicators, as well as the particular ways in which they  negotiate those interests. This reality being also that of civil family law, Fournier’s observations demonstrate the importance of accounting for these issues, which are intrinsic to family law as a whole, in any project aiming for the recognition of religious norms by secular law.

Finally, Professor Fournier publishes “Please Divorce Me! Subversive Agency, Resistance and Gendered Religious Scripts” in  Muslim Family Law in Western Courts (Routledge: Abingdon, 2014), edited by Elisa Giunchi. Her contribution looks at family mediation in a religious context. Professor Fournier tackles the opposing discourses of, on one hand, those who refuse the recognition of religious norms claiming that civil law constitutes an essential protection against religious oppression of women and, on the other, those who believe that the religious sphere is a private forum for expression of identities which must remain shielded from state law in the name of individual freedom. More specifically, this chapter underlines how this traditional dichotomy fails to capture and reflect the role that religious norms actually play in the lives of many religious Canadians. Relying on her fieldwork in Muslim and Jewish communities of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, Professor Fournier suggests that for many religious people, the religious and civil spheres are not isolated worlds but rather constitute a complex battlefield on which costs and benefits are distributed among parties that put forward diverging interests. Borrowing from the “left law and economics” literature, which understands and appreciates the family unit in terms of the social and economic interests pursued by its members, this contribution shows that parties looking to optimize their gains in the religious sphere just as much as in the civil sphere use religious norms in a complex manner that is still ignored by the mainstream literature.