Lester B. Pearson School Board won’t enforce Quebec’s secularism bill

Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters he made compromises on the government's upcoming secularism bill. Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Jean-Vincent Verville/Global News

The Lester B. Pearson School Board is joining the growing chorus of voices opposing the province’s proposed secularism law, Bill 21, saying it won’t be enforcing it.

The bill forbids teachers and other civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

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“Bill 21 is unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive,” said Noel Burke, LBPSB chair, in a statement. “The council of commissioners and the administration of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, in their entirety, are opposed to Bill 21.

“We are holders of the public trust and can not support a law that is abhorrent to all we believe in,” the statement continued.

On February 25th, the board passed a unanimous resolution strongly condemning the bill, stating they will neither adhere to nor enforce it.

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The English Montreal School Board passed a similar resolution this week.

READ MORE: EMSB vows not to comply with Quebec’s proposed religious symbols ban

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“We believe in the secularism of the state while supporting an individual’s right to freedom of religion,” said EMSB chair Angela Mancini.

Heidi Yates from the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers says religious garb in classrooms has never been an issue. The ban, she said, is teaching kids the opposite of diversity.

“You’re taking away [the] rights of people to express themselves and I think that is a huge problem in education, because that’s what we’re trying to teach our students every day,” Yates told Global News. ​

WATCH: Quebec Premier François Legault says he is “very proud” of the province’s secularism bill, saying it represents “our values.”

Click to play video: 'Quebec Premier ‘very proud’ of religious symbols bill'
Quebec Premier ‘very proud’ of religious symbols bill

The bill has also been criticized as it comes at a time when there is a shortage of teachers in Quebec.

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Bill 21 not only affects teachers. Judges, police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and other public servants in what the government considers to be positions of authority are also affected.

— With files from Global News’ Elysia Bryan-Baynes, Kalina Laframboise and Rachel Lau

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