The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) expressed its deep disappointment with and opposition to Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, which prohibits broad categories of government employees, including public school teachers and principals from wearing religious symbols.
“Bill 21 is a divisive and an unnecessary piece of legislation that can only lead to societal discrimination. Once again, this government is claiming there is a problem that clearly does not exist. Québec’s public schools have a proud record of inclusion, of celebrating the different ways to be Quebecers and Canadians. Our teachers’ unions and our school boards have always found ways to strike a positive balance between religious differences and common values. QESBA and its member Boards would far prefer the government to be working with us to address the real issues, such as student success and increased services in the classroom, that matter to the future of the students,” said QESBA President Dan Lamoureux.
Going further than the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report entitled “BUILDING THE FUTURE: A Time for Reconciliation,” the draft law proposes to ban the wearing of religious symbols by public sector employees in a position of authority, including teachers and administrators in our schools. The fact that the prohibition would not apply to current employees does nothing to make it more acceptable. The use of both the Canadian and Québec “notwithstanding” clauses in Bill 21 is a clear indication that even the Government of Québec recognizes that the proposed measures are an infringement on individual rights.
“Inclusion, inquiry and fairness are basic principles that guide the teaching we do in all nine English school boards across Quebec. QESBA sees nothing in Bill 21 that strengthens these principles. QESBA will insist on presenting its thoughts on the key aspects of this bill when Parliamentary Committee hearings are set. We will do so after speaking with teachers, administrators, parents and communities served by our nine member Boards. We will look at the draft law with a clear focus on what is best for our students and employees and with a steadfast commitment to the values of openness, tolerance and mutual understanding so crucial to our society,” concluded the President.