Quebec’s education minister said on Wednesday that the three teachers who recently removed their religious symbols in order to get a teaching contract are proof that the Legault government’s secularism law is working.
The teachers in question work for the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), the largest school board in the province. While Quebec’s largest English school board hasn’t heard of any teachers making such concessions, its chairperson worries that more new teachers will be targeted.
“We’re telling people they have to remove religious symbols. It’s sad,” said English Montreal School Board (EMSB) chair Angela Mancini.
“It’s deplorable, it really is deplorable to think that people have to give up their beliefs to keep a job.”
Bill 21 bans public-sector employees in positions of authority — including teachers — from wearing religious symbols while at work. While the legislation has been criticized, the Legault government maintains it has widespread support from Quebecers.
On Tuesday, the CSDM revealed that three newly-hired teachers had chosen to comply with Bill 21 and remove their religious garb in order to keep their work contract this year, otherwise they would be out of a job.
“Right now we have to work with this law,” said CSDM president Catherine Harel-Bourdon on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, another new teacher received a written warning from the CSDM to remove her hijab by Sept. 10 if she wanted to keep her contract. A union spokesperson has confirmed that she is not one of the three teachers who recently agreed to comply with the law.
“She gave up her contract last Tuesday and she is now at home,” said Yves Parenteau of the Montreal Teachers Alliance.
Roberge said he believes there are likely more than three teachers who have agreed to leave their religious symbols at home, calling it a sign of success.
“I think it’s proof that the law is a good law, it’s a moderate law, it’s easy to apply and teachers and students understand the law,” he said.
While the EMSB has no reported incidents of teachers removing religious symbols in order to be eligible for work, its chairperson worries more teachers will be faced with the same dilemma.
“It’s going to keep happening because there are some school boards that have decided not to see people in interviews,” said Mancini, referring to the decision she said some boards have taken to rule out internships by teaching students who wear visible religious symbols.
“I think what they’re doing now is going to cause less acceptance of others,” she said.
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