“Bill 21 is unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive,” said Noel Burke.
The Chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board’s statement was in response to the provincial government’s approval of that bill into law last week, banning religious symbols in public sector workplaces.
“The council of commissioners and the administration of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, in their entirety, are opposed to Bill 21,” said Burke. “We are holders of the public trust and cannot support a law that is abhorrent to all we believe in!”
The board’s statement following the CAQ’s approval of Bill 21 noted that by “invoking the ‘notwithstanding’ clause, the government has confirmed its denial of the basic rights of freedom of expression and religion that are core to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”
“At a time when we are trying to focus on educational projects, improving student success and tolerance of others, a debate on the wearing of religious symbols in the workplace will detract from the core mission of our schools and centres,” said Sylvain Racette, President of ADGESBQ (Association of Directors General of English School Boards of Quebec).
“Furthermore, it also exacerbates a real issue we are currently facing, the shortage of our most precious asset, our staff,” Racette noted.
“It is the position of the Lester B Pearson School Board to stand in solidarity with our colleagues across the province, and the Quebec English School Boards Association, who are opposed to this legislation,” said Burke.
“The Council of Commissioners will not adhere to, nor be the enforcer of the provincial government’s secularism bill and its provisions as they pertain to our dedicated staff,” said the LBPSB Chair.
Following the recent announcement by the REM light rail project regarding the diminution of expected parking spots for West Island stations, The Suburban spoke to the REM’s Harout Chitilian, lead of the communications and public relations department about the choice as well as the massive disruption in the Deux Montagnes commuter train line coming up in a year.
After the announcement, many West Island mayors decried the choice noting that if residents cannot get to the station in an easy or timely fashion, they will not choose to use the rail system.
“The reality being that if parking was available then more would use other transport options and leave their vehicles close to home,” Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor Dimitrios Jim Beis said while Pointe Claire Mayor John Belvedere noted that “it’s a great project but the way it’s going to work is if people can feel comfortable driving there, parking their car and getting on to go somewhere.”
“This significant change in the planning of the West Island stations transfers the burden of finding viable solutions to the lack of parking, to municipalities” said Kirkland Mayor Michel Gibson.
“We want to be crystal clear that we understand people, once the REM is operational, will need a car to get to the station and parking spots will be consideration for those who have to drop their loved ones off or those who need a car due to reduced mobility,” Chitilian told The Suburban.
Chitilian noted that the new light rail project will be working closely in conjunction with the STM to “completely revamp our public transportation service to get passengers to the West Island stations and we are designing our plans with that mindset.”
There are currently 700 parking spots listed for the West Island stations, a drastic drop from original numbers earlier projected. “We will have a platform for buses, taxi and drop off zones as well as car sharing areas because we want the largest number of people possible suing the new service and we have an obligation to provide means to get easily to and from the new stations,” Chitilian said.
And while the new project isn’t expected to see the light of day for four years at least, “the REM will be a game changer because not only will West Island commuters be able to easily get into the downtown core in about thirty minutes, it will also mean skilled workers coming to the West Island which is something the business community is very excited about,” said Chitilian.
For regular users of the Deux Montagnes train line that is expecting major disruption to service next year and a complete closure soon after, Chitilian said that “ we tried all possible scenarios to work on half of the line at one time while still keeping it operational but from an engineering and operational perspectives, it was simply not possible.”
In meetings with other actors in the project including the Ministry of Transport, Chitilian said that there are three criteria the work must adhere to that are “provide solutions that will abide an alternative solution that is still easier than driving, providing a solution that is reliable and to limit the number of phase changes.”
And while Chitilian agreed that “it is going to be difficult, the project has budgeted $ 200 million to provide solutions for these commuters.
“This is still a work in progress and while we are living in a stressful world with many time constraints, we will work to ensure the impact of construction for our users.”