June 26, 2019 6:57 pm
Updated: June 26, 2019 8:11 pm

Quebec won’t send inspectors to schools to enforce secularism law: education minister

People attend a demonstration to protest against the Quebec government's Bill 21 in Montreal, Monday, June 17, 2019.

Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press

The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s religious symbols ban must be respected by public schools, but the province will not be doing on-the-ground checks to ensure it is being applied, according to Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.

“It’s not my plan to send some inspectors or police in schools,” said Roberge on Wednesday. “I don’t think we will see that.”

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Bill 21 prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority — such as teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols while at work. It was passed by Quebec’s National Assembly earlier this month.

READ MORE: Quebec’s largest school board refuses to apply Bill 21 before ‘proper consultation’

The contentious legislation has sparked backlash in the education system, with a wave of school boards in Montreal vowing not to enforce it.

Quebec’s largest school board, the Commission scolaire de Montréal, voted to delay applying it by one year in order to hold consultations with parents, unions, governing boards and other stakeholders. It argues the province is placing a “tremendous burden” on school principals who risk disciplinary measures if they do not comply with the law.

Roberge, for his part, rejected the CSDM’s concerns about how to enforce the ban and says it is wrong to claim it complicates the lives of principals.

WATCH BELOW: Enforcing Quebec’s secularism law

Montreal institutions are not exempt from Bill 21, he added.

“For this law, as for any law, it has to be applied,” he said. “There is no difference for this law or any law in Quebec — when they are democratically voted, all Quebecers should respect the law.”

READ MORE: Montreal teacher’s future in limbo as Bill 21 comes into force

The province’s federation of school boards has also distanced itself last week from the CSDM’s position. The Fédération des commissions scolaires, which oversees nearly 60 school boards, says it intends to enforce the law.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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

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