School boards across Montreal will be implementing the rules of Bill 21 come September.
After consistently expressing a strong stance opposing Quebec’s religious neutrality law, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CDSM) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board have now agreed.
In a meeting Wednesday night, the EMSB was the last of the three school boards to agree to abide by Quebec’s legislation which bars teachers from wearing religious symbols on the job.
A recent letter from the Education Ministry sent out to school board directors stated, “It is the responsibility of the highest administrative authority in the school board to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the prohibition to wear a religious sign.”
Noel Burke, chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, said that the application of the law will be a challenge but they will comply.
“We believe there are very strong arguments that Bill 21 infringes on the constitutional rights of our community to control and manage our school system,” said Russell Copeman, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).
Copeman, however, said that the QESBA will not challenge the bill at this time.
Heidi Yetman, from the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), said the bill goes against workers’ rights and they will do their best to support the teachers affected.
The EMSB said they have been warned that teachers who don’t respect the secularism rules come Sept. 3 could possibly face sanctions.
Quebec’s religious neutrality law bars all public servants in positions of authority — such as teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols at work. It includes a grandfather clause.
— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise
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