Despite Premier Legault’s last-minute threats against local school boards who were thinking of defying the government over Bill 21, a majority of the English Montreal School Board’s commissioners voted to challenge the new law that bans the wearing of religious symbols on the job for many of the government’s employees — including many of the school board’s teachers.
“This law goes against all of the values we believe in as an organization,” said EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini. “I think it breeds intolerance.”
Contrary to the stress and tension that usually define the school board’s meetings, last week’s decision was the result of a quiet and subdued discussion as councillors continued to discuss what a recent EMSB human resources report would mean for the school board’s future. Based upon its conclusion that Bill 21 hobbled its ability to hire the best and the brightest talent required to maintain its standards, the report recommends that the board mount yet another legal challenge to protect its interests based upon Canadian Charter section 23 that guarantees minority language education rights. While much of the council’s discussion occurred during a previous in camera session, Councillor Julian Feldman continued to lead the attack against the government’s intention to limit, and effectively eliminate school board authority over its own affairs – including the management of its own human resources.
“Seeking an exemption through the courts...is particularly relevant to the EMSB and all of Québec’s English-speaking school boards,” said Feldman who chairs the board’s Human Resources committee “...(because) they’re all grappling with surging parent demand for access to schools offering high-level second – language French programs, delivered through bilingual and French immersion schools.”
While some councillors were worried about both the cost and the consequences of the lawsuit against a government that’s already demonstrated its disdain for Montreal’s English community, both Feldman and councillor James Kromida convinced their colleagues to join the fight against the law and the government’s intervention in the school board’s affairs.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and Conservative candidate David Tordjman were the only participants in B’nai Brith Canada’s Mount Royal debate last week, held at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.
According to B’nai Brith Canada Quebec region director Harvey Levine, the NDP and Bloc Québécois had events at the same time as the debate, while the People’s Party of Canada did not qualify to debate (More below). The Green Party candidate was ill.
Topics discussed included anti-Semitism, which party supports Israel more against hostile United Nations votes; the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the environment, the economy and other matters. The moderator was Dan Spector of Global News. At times, there was hostility from some audience members at both candidates with at least one shout of “liar” and boos at various points of the evening.
“You need, in this country, and in the United States, bipartisan support for Israel,” Housefather said. “I have been one of the leading voices within the Liberal Party on our positions on Israel and fighting anti-Semitism.... On the whole, our [pro-Israel] record has been more than solid. Do you think that record would be the same if there weren’t MPs like me and [Toronto’s] Michael Levitt these last four years?”
Tordjman, who earlier slammed the Liberals for their UN abstention regarding the U.S.’s move of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and appeasing dictators all with an eye on a UN security council seat, pointed out that his father worked for Israel’s Mossad in Morocco.
“He put his life on the line doing what was right because he believed in what was right, and that’s what he taught us,” the candidate added. “You’ll always be right if you stand for what is right, not wavering, not leaning to dictators and despots and trying to curry favour with them. .... We have to stand with our friends in Israel, not sometimes Yes, sometimes No.”
We asked Housefather and Tordjman their thoughts on the at least three episodes of Justin Trudeau darkening his face — when he was 29 in 2001 for a party, and two other occasions prior.
”The Prime Minister said he was sorry, it happened a long time ago, it was a very unfortunate thing to have done, but it was something that happened when he was young, and he should be judged as a public official, and all of his public actions show he’s a big fighter against racism, intolerance and injustice,” Housefather said.
”Is Trudeau racist, that’s a question Canadians have to decide on,” Tordjman responded. “The core of the issue is, he pretends to be one thing and he actually is something else. Be honest with Canadians, be truthful. It’s clear he’s not truthful about his past, but also what he’s going to do in the future.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Zachary Lozoff was allowed to set up a table at the debate venue and pass out election material, but was not permitted by B’nai Brith to debate.
“We sent out an election guide with questions to all the parties, and the PPC didn’t respond to us by the time we made the decision,” Levine said. “We also made the decision on the statistics of how much of a following they had across Canada, and in Quebec they have less than one percent. So do we invite the Rhinoceros Party, the Communist Party? We decided to invite the key parties.”
Lozoff was disappointed.