April 5, 2019 6:13 pm
Updated: April 5, 2019 6:30 pm

Montreal students, aspiring teachers blast Quebec’s secularism bill in school walkout

WATCH: The proposed religious neutrality bill is creating a firestorm of emotions, with one municipal mayor in Montreal equating the bill to "ethnic cleansing.” As Global's Tim Sargeant explains, some student groups and teachers have started organizing protests.

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Montreal students and teachers took to the streets as opposition grows to the Quebec government’s proposed religious symbols ban one week after it was tabled.

A crowd gathered outside of Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School early Friday afternoon, with many teenagers donning hijabs in protest. Grade 11 student Layla Saadi said she and her fellow classmates don’t support the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s secularism bill.

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“It’s disgusting,” said Saadi. “It shouldn’t be put in place in a democracy.”

READ MORE: Quebec Liberals accuse CAQ of dismissing concerns over secularism bill

Bill 21 would bar Quebec civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. The sweeping ban would apply to teachers, police officers and judges among others.

While the proposed legislation includes a grandfather clause that would exempt current employees who wear religious garb from the ban, aspiring teachers would have to abide by it.

Zeinab Daher was celebrating her last day of her internship as a student teacher. After four years of studying, she is on the cusp of graduating university — but she worries her aspirations will be dashed by the province’s plan.

“I might have to reconsider my career and I don’t want to do this,” she said.

Standing outside of the school, Daher said she wants Quebecers to know what’s unfolding in the wake of the proposed legislation. While she said she not surprised by the bill, she feels let down by the province.

“It’s not because I’m wearing a veil that I’m not a good teacher or that I can’t teach my students,” she argued.

The demonstration took place as a coalition of political leaders from different levels of government denounced Bill 21. They called for Quebecers opposed to secularism plan to join them in an April 14 protest.

READ MORE: Quebec’s secularism bill met with opposition from Gérard Bouchard, coalition of politicians

The elected officials told a crowd of reporters they hope to defeat the bill, a sentiment that was echoed by a teacher who joined her students in the walkout in Pierrefonds.

“I hope it shows Mr. Legault and his government that the future generations are opposed to this,” said Rawan Moudarres. “They know that we are entitled to our freedoms and we are entitled to our rights. I hope this is a clear message to him.”

Students like Saadi said they have their own message for Premier François Legault about Bill 21.

“We’re the next set of voters so if you’re going to put it in place, it’s not going to last long,” she said.

WATCH BELOW: West Island communities voice opposition to Quebec’s religious symbols bill

— With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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