As the school year begins, the Coalition Avenir Québec government says it will not allow parents to select a different class for their child if their teacher wears a religious symbol.
“It is not up to the parents to choose or shop for their teacher,” said Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.
The move comes on the heels of an open letter published by parents in Le Devoir, a French-language daily newspaper in Montreal.
Quebec’s religious neutrality bill bars public servants in positions of authority — such as teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols at work. It includes a grandfather clause.
The authors argue they should be able to pull their children out of a classroom taught by a teacher wearing a religious symbol. In the letter, they say they are entitled to secular public institutions and services as per Bill 21.
“It is not normal for each parent to have to do their own thing, at the risk of dealing with uninformed school officials,” the letter reads. “We ask that the Ministry of Education adequately inform school boards of the rights of parents and require them to put in place a procedure to guarantee secular public service to parents who request it.”
“A simple change of class makes it possible to respond to such requests.”
The open letter is signed by dozens of parents from across the province, including some in Montreal, Laval, Quebec City and Rouyn-Noranda.
Roberge, for his part, quickly panned the idea on Wednesday.
Bill 21 does not provide for such demands, he said. He added that the government does not intend to change it.
WATCH: Quebec’s Bill 21 fallout continues
— With files from The Canadian Press