April 2, 2014
Since the group of teachers and students from Westmount High released our video “A Lesson in Values for Madame Marois” the response has been overwhelming. In the first 72 hours the video was posted it was viewed nearly 27,000 times. The teachers involved and Westmount’s principal have been flooded with messages from former Westmount students saying how proud the video made them to be graduates of Westmount High.
Perhaps most satisfying was seeing how the release of this video put the Parti Quebecois into damage control mode. Many of the newscasts on the video featured a very uncomfortable looking Pauline Marois having to state that her Party was not against cultural diversity, religious freedom or freedom of expression. How she squares this with Bill 60 which clearly infringes on these fundamental freedoms is beyond me, but I was glad she had to answer this question nonetheless.
The other element of the PQ’s damage control strategy has been to have Gilles Duceppe write two columns (here and here) in the Peladeau-owned Journal de Montreal questioning the professional integrity of the teachers involved in this video and suggesting that it was inappropriate for Westmount High to take a political position on this issue.
Apparently Mr Duceppe had not watched the video to the end where it clearly states that this video was not produced by Westmount High but by a group of concerned teachers and students from Westmount High.
Nor did Mr Duceppe bother to investigate how the students in the video came to be involved. Had he done so, he would have learned that this was not an activity done in class, but something done outside of class time with a group of students participating voluntarily with the explicit written consent of their parents.
But more importantly, I find it very interesting that in neither of his two columns on the matter does Mr Duceppe address the substance of the video’s message. I would like to know exactly which political statement Mr Duceppe feels was inappropriate for students in the video to read. Was it students reading a direct quote from the Quebec Charter of Rights & Freedoms? Was it students reading from the UN Declaration on Human Rights? Was it students reading from the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child?
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February 23, 2014
By Robert Green | Published Saturday Feb 22, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette
There is a conversation about the Parti Québécois government’s proposed charter of Quebec values that I keep having. I’ve had this conversation with both anglophones and francophones, sovereignists and federalists, and politicos and people who hardly follow politics at all.
The conversation is about how this is a political issue unlike any other in recent memory.
People are deeply disturbed by Bill 60.
There is something particularly vile about a government that would so forcefully act to further exclude and alienate groups that are already marginalized in Quebec society. The English Montreal School Board’s parliamentary brief that describes Bill 60 as giving “a government endorsement to bullying” captures well the sentiments of many who oppose the charter.
While most opponents of the charter are extremely clear about the various reasons why they oppose this legislation, they are far less so about how we as citizens should react. There are a range of reactions being proposed, some of which do not seem to me to be very well thought out.
At the extreme end is the threat to leave Quebec.
I can certainly understand why someone might have this impulse. Rejecting things we don’t agree with is a natural instinct. But the reality is that the more opponents of xenophobic politics leave Quebec, the easier it will be for xenophobes to have their way; marginalized groups will become even more vulnerable.
Another common reaction is to trust that the charter will be defeated through the courts.
While it does seem that the vast majority of constitutional experts believe the charter will not withstand a court challenge, nothing is ever sure. We also have to acknowledge that the legal route presents certain risks. If the charter is not struck down in its entirety, such a ruling could provide it another level of political legitimacy. The spectre of a confrontation with the federal Supreme Court, with all of the political implications that entails, also looms. There is therefore a real possibility that even if the PQ loses in the courts it will gain politically, thus entrenching its turn toward the politics of xenophobia.
The option which is not being discussed enough is the citizens of Quebec themselves taking action.
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February 14, 2014
Robert Green, Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Trudie Mason and Tommy Shnurmacher discuss the EMSB’s presentation at the Bill 60 hearings. Click here to stream or download the podcast.
February 6, 2014
Le projet de loi 60 crée une discrimination à l’emploi, concluent les avocats mandatés de la Fédération autonome de l’enseignement
Lisa-Marie Gervais | Published Feb 5, 2014 by Le Devoir
Non seulement la charte de la laïcité porte-t-elle atteinte à plusieurs droits fondamentaux, mais elle brime également le droit à l’égalité en créant une discrimination importante à l’emploi, conclut un nouvel avis juridique commandé par la Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE). Et cette discrimination touche directement les femmes, car ce sont elles qu’on exclut du marché du travail.
« Force est de constater que le [projet de loi 60] ne démontre aucune intention réelle de l’État de poursuivre un objectif de promotion du droit des femmes en emploi ou dans la société », lit-on dans l’avis rendu public mardi et préparé par les avocats Josée Lavallée et Pierre Brun, de la firme Melançon, Marceau, Grenier et Sciortino. Comme il s’agit d’interdire, par exemple, le port du voile dans les institutions de l’État et qu’il continuera d’être permis dans la rue et dans les espaces privés, il est donc « clair que le but et l’objectif du gouvernement sont d’assurer la neutralité, la laïcité de l’état et non l’égalité des femmes ».
Les commissions scolaires sont des organismes parapublics qui ont l’obligation de mettre en place des programmes d’accès à l’égalité en emploi, question de ne pas défavoriser les minorités comme les handicapés, les femmes, les minorités visibles. En interdisant le port de signes religieux comme le propose l’article 5 du projet de loi, l’État engendre une discrimination fondée sur la religion et entre en contradiction avec ses propres programmes censés viser l’égalité, soutient le président de la FAE, Sylvain Mallette. « Le gouvernement dit qu’il veut l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes, mais ce n’est pas ça. Car il vient dire à ces personnes qui appartiennent à une minorité, dont les femmes qui portent un voile, qu’elles ne peuvent pas maintenir un lien d’emploi ou accéder à un emploi, explique-t-il. Le droit au travail est donc remis en question, car le gouvernement va à l’encontre du droit à l’égalité. Et les femmes sont victimes doublement. Elles sont déjà une minorité et, en plus, on les discriminerait pour le port d’un voile. »
Read more: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/399016/le-projet-de-charte-serait-inconstitutionnel-selon-un-avis-juridique-de-la-fae?utm_source=infolettre-2014-02-05&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
January 22, 2014
Par Sébastien Robert | Jan 20, 2014 La Presse
Le projet de loi 60 qui est actuellement à l’étude à l’Assemblée nationale soulève les passions à travers le Québec. Le débat a plusieurs facettes, mais l’aspect juridique de celui-ci tourne autour de la constitutionnalité de l’interdiction du port de signes religieux ostentatoires. Je ne suis pas avocat, je fais donc confiance au Barreau du Québec quand il dit que cette interdiction serait contraire aux chartes des droits et libertés.
Par contre, comme syndicaliste, je vois surtout les problèmes concrets d’application du projet de loi 60 et le débat juridique que les syndicats n’auront pas le choix de mener à cause de leur devoir, prévu au Code du travail, de défendre les droits de chacun de leurs membres.
Aussi, je semble être le seul à voir, dans ce projet de loi 60, une loi spéciale qui remet en question la liberté des travailleurs du secteur public de s’associer pour négocier des conditions de travail. Les syndicats du secteur public ont négocié des conventions collectives en 2011. Ces contrats de travail, signés par les syndicats et le gouvernement, sont valides jusqu’au 31 mars 2015.
Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/debats/votre-opinion/201401/20/01-4730625-une-charte-anti-syndicale.php
January 10, 2014
School board says it won’t accept any attempt to legislate staff dress code
By Monique Muise | Published January 9, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL — The English Montreal School Board says Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values “gives a government endorsement to bullying” in its schools, and as such, it will neither support nor adhere to the controversial legislation.
In a brief to be presented at the National Assembly during hearings into what is now known as Bill 60, the EMSB outlines the reasons for its opposition to the charter, which would forbid public servants — including teachers and principals — from wearing conspicuous religious symbols on the job.
“We cannot be party to a proposed legislation which, if passed, runs contrary to what we teach our students insofar as tolerance and respect of individual rights and religious freedoms are concerned,” reads the brief, released on Thursday morning. The board then states clearly that it will “not accept” any attempt to legislate the wearing of clothing, headgear, jewelry or other adornments among its staff.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Charter+Quebec+Values+endorses+bullying+EMSB+says/9368259/story.html
November 30, 2013
By Catherine Solyom | Published November 29, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette
As the school boards became secular in 1998 — under Marois’s leadership as education minister — and with immigration on the rise, there was a concerted effort to open the doors of the schools to students and teachers of different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
A School for the Future: Policy Statement on Educational Integration and Intercultural Education, signed by Marois in 1998, promotes ZERO EXCLUSION (their emphasis) and the recognition that diversity in terms of family background, religious or cultural identity is “itself one of our shared values.”
It also highlights the need for — and the challenge of — increasing diversity in the teaching profession:
“The credibility of pretensions to openness and ethno-cultural and religious diversity relies heavily on the visibility of this diversity within the school staff,” the policy statement reads. “But, in many school boards and most educational institutions, the staff remains ethno-culturally homogeneous … it seems appropriate to ask school boards and colleges to make sure that their hiring system includes no rules or practices that could have a discriminatory effect. …”
Fast-forward to 2013 and another PQ government — with Marois as premier — is leading the charge to ban religious headgear and other accessories, this time for teachers.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Education+charter+chill/9230609/story.html
Video report: Values Charter – Does Bill 60 “hurt” students?
November 29, 2013
Second Montreal institution to defy Bill 60’s ban on the wearing of religious symbols by public-sector workers
By Michelle Lalonde | Published November 28, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL – The English Montreal School Board became the second major institution to signal it will stand against the Parti Québécois’ proposed charter of values when it passed a motion Wednesday stating it has no intention of implementing a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by public-sector workers.
Following the lead of the Jewish General Hospital, which announced its intention to ignore that part of the charter two weeks ago, the EMSB passed a motion to defy certain provisions of the charter at a regular board meeting Wednesday night.
“The English Montreal School Board wishes to make it clear that it cannot accept the provisions of Bill 60 which relate to the wearing of objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overly indicate a religious affiliation, and shall not implement any of the religious elements of Bill 60, should it be passed by the National Assembly,” reads the resolution, which passed with one abstention and no opposing votes.
EMSB commissioner Syd Wise, who moved the motion Wednesday, told other board members that the prospect of a government asking the board members for lists of employees whose garb contravenes the charter makes him shudder.
“The EMSB is one of the more important English institutions in Quebec. We are in the business of education. Our teachers teach tolerance to others and respect of individual rights, which includes freedom to adhere to one’s religious convictions. The essence of Bill 60 runs contrary to what this board stands for and what we teach our kids.”
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/EMSB+says+Quebec+proposed+Charter+Values/9223622/story.html
November 12, 2013
Robert Green, Anne Lagacé-Dowson and Trudie Mason discuss the Charter of Quebec Values with Tommy Shnurmacher. Click here for the podcast.
November 9, 2013
By Anne Leclair | Published Nov 7, 2013 by Global News
Furheen Ahmed feels like a second class citizen. The 29-year-old was born and bred in Montreal even graduated from the same school she teaches at today.
“To be told you’re not good enough the way you are, this is somehow making you less professional, which I don’t believe it is at all. To hear that or feel that doesn’t feel good, it’s disheartening,” said the Westmount High School teacher who wears a hijab.
Students and staff have been standing up against the proposed Charter by protesting outside the school every Friday since the beginning of September. The teacher spearheading the campaign against the controversial bill calls it a sad day for Quebec.
“We’re absolutely outraged that anyone would dare suggest that Miss Ahmed is anything less than an outstanding teacher simply because of wears on her head” said Robert Green.
And while both teachers don’t believe the bill will ever become the law, the mere fact that it has made it this far comes as a surprise.
But Ahmed isn’t going anywhere. She’s determined to fight for right to wear a religious symbol on the job.
Read more & watch the video report: http://globalnews.ca/news/954262/charter-backlash-continues/
October 18, 2013
By MARIAN SCOTT | Published October 18, 2013 by The Gazette
MONTREAL — The Parti Québécois government’s Charter of Quebec Values is a clear infringement of human rights that would not stand up to a court challenge, the province’s human rights commission says.
In a scathing 27-page critique released Thursday, the rights commission calls the proposed values charter a violation of both “the spirit and the letter” of the province’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government’s proposal to bar public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols like the hijab, kippah or turban would be overturned by the courts, the commission predicted.
“It’s impossible that it would stand up,” Jacques Frémont, chairman of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, said in an interview.
“The courts would rip it to shreds.”
Frémont said the proposed values charter is the “most radical” change that’s ever been proposed to Quebec’s charter of rights, which was passed unanimously by the National Assembly in 1975.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Charter+based+wrong+concept+religious+freedom/9047976/story.html
October 16, 2013
Published October 15, 2013 by The Gazette
The proposal by the Parti Québécois for a Charter of Quebec Values raises key questions about the direction of our society. We write here as mental-health practitioners, researchers and educators directly involved in issues of cultural diversity in mental health and health-care services.
Although respect for human rights is the most basic reason for rejecting the Charter of Quebec Values, we are deeply concerned about its negative effects on mental health, well-being and social integration. We believe the proposals are profoundly misguided for many reasons.
Neutrality as a veil for discrimination: Under the banner of secularism and neutrality, the proposed Charter launches an attack on minorities and on the very idea of diversity in society. Neutrality — in the sense of equity, fairness, openness and even-handed recognition — does not depend on ignoring difference or insisting that individuals hide their identities. On the contrary, it means recognizing people for who they are and ensuring that they have the same opportunities as others regardless of their identity.
Tolerance, mutual understanding and respect come from dialogue with others. Public displays of religious affiliation are affirmations of personal and communal identities and values from which we all can learn. Excluding personal expressions of culture, religion and spirituality by employees working in public institutions will prevent people from learning about each other and will lead to more stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion. The charter will thus undermine efforts to build a tolerant and inclusive society, and will increase ethnic conflict both at home and abroad. It is a major step backward in the effort to build a pluralistic society committed to human rights.
The politics of division: making a religion of secularism: The thinking behind the charter is a throwback to an earlier time when racism, anti-semitism and discrimination against minorities were features of everyday life in Quebec — as they also were elsewhere in Canada. Both anglophone and francophone institutions participated in this intolerance. The Jewish General Hospital was built in the 1930s because of systematic discrimination at major academic and health-care institutions in Montreal.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Letter+values+charter+would+unhealthy/9033600/story.html