The English Montreal School Board recently submitted a brief on Quebec’s proposed Bill 21, which would ban newly hired people in authority under provincial jurisdiction — police, prison guards as well as teachers — from wearing religious symbols.
The EMSB was not permitted to present their brief in person at recent National Assembly hearings on the bill, and they submitted theirs in writing.
Some of the points in the EMSB’s brief:
• Educators should be exempt from Bill 21.
• If Bill 21 is passed, it would “contravene Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Quebec’s English-speaking minority control over its education system.”
• Such a law “would prohibit our future primary and high school teachers, school principals and vice-principals from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions, while limiting the career advancement of our current employees,” stated Commissioner Julian Feldman, chair of the EMSB’s Human Resources Advisory Committee. “It sends a message of intolerance and exclusion....The passage of Bill 21 would lead to disharmony and friction and is contrary to our societal goal of promoting our peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic Quebec.”
• Bill 21 violates the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Human Rights and Freedoms, in terms of “protecting minority rights from the will of the majority.
• Feldman added that the secular nature of the school system “is guaranteed in the law, and is certainly not under threat from school employees who choose to wear religious symbols. There is no justification in discriminating based on individual expressions of religious belief or for the use of the notwithstanding clause.”
• Bill 21 “will have a detrimental impact on the women and men and girls and boys who make up the community” and “force individuals to choose between government employment and a desire to wear religious apparel.
• The wearing of religious apparel by teachers does not equate “with the dissemination of religious beliefs to students
“Teachers are professionals who know that they are required to place their own convictions aside in order to offer various perspectives in the classroom,” EMSB chair Angela Mancini stated. “We are convinced that diversity strengthens our education system.”