Posts tagged ‘PQ’

November 29, 2013

EMSB says no to Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values

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.”

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November 9, 2013

Charter backlash continues at Montreal high school

By | 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.

WHS-Against-Charter “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:

October 2, 2013

Marois says abolishing school boards ‘on the table’, association president says

By Kevin Dougherty | Published October 1, 2013 by The Gazette
QUEBE – The president of Quebec’s French school boards’ association said Tuesday night the Marois government is prepared to abolish the boards.Josée Bouchard, president of the Fédération des commission scolaires du Québec, told reporters after a 90-minute meeting between the Parti Québécois government and the boards that she asked Premier Pauline Marois point blank whether she would consider eliminating the boards.

“Everything is on the table,” was the premier’s laconic reply.

But Suanne Stein Day, chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, on Montreal’s West Island, discounted the premier’s threat, noting that the existence of Quebec’s English boards, at least, is guaranteed in the Canadian constitution.

“I do think though it’s not quite fair to leave that threat on the table,” Stein Day said. “We have a constitutional right to exist.”

Marois told the school board representatives she wants them to give back $100 million of the close to $200 million in added schools taxes this year, after her government reduced it’s contribution to the boards by $200 million.

The cuts would come in two $50-million instalments in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

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September 28, 2013

Quebec Charter of Values FAQ

How can I stand up for a Quebec that is free of xenophobia and respectful of people’s fundamental freedoms?

Attend the demontration Sunday September 29 beginning at 1 o’clock at at Place des Festival at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Sainte-Catherine streets.


tumblr_mt76gj8dHC1sidmaxo1_1280To see the rest of this series visit:

September 21, 2013

What about victims of the cult of impossible femininity?

By Katharine Cukier | Published September 20 by The Montreal Gazette

The Charter of Values plans to eliminate the personal display of religious symbols from the Quebec  public service. Apparently, this is necessary to confirm the secular neutrality of our state. Further, as the current government posters in the Metro suggest, this is a vital gesture to promote the ‘sacred’ equality of women and men.

We are not naïve.  We all understand that the Muslim woman’s head covering, the hijab, is the particular target of the PQ’s action, and it is this particular piece of cloth that has been generating a panic, both ethnocentric and islamaphobic for a number of years.  For many, the head scarf has become the preeminent sign of female submissiveness. And even if these devout women claim it is their choice to follow the dress code of piety, we are convinced that there is some bullying, bearded father or brother forcing them to do it. And, well, we just don’t like it.

I am for consistency, especially from the neutral, rational state, and if we want to be consistent and indeed rid the public service of symbols of female submission, I would argue that not only should Muslim woman remove their scarves, but all female public servants to whom the following applies should be obliged to remove their breast implants, spike heels, false eyelashes and the botulism they have had injected into their faces. They should be forbidden from dying their hair, wearing makeup and tight clothing to their public service jobs as these adornments suggest individual choices that are powerfully at odds with our progressive, egalitarian society. No more pretty, kindergarden teachers with plunging necklines and girly manicures. No more crown prosecutors in short skirts and lipstick. If we really believe that our secular, non-patriarchal state can be compromised by what women wear,  public servants who have been indoctrinated since birth by a barrage of media sexism to submit to a feminine ideal brought to you by Hugh Hefner or Walt Disney should be brought to heel. Flat heels of course. Ladies, you wear flat, comfortable shoes, or you lose your job.

We know these unfortunate women are victims of the cult of impossible femininity with its sacraments of fashion and narcissism and its flipside: a generalised self-loathing instilled from an early age by the manipulative, misogynist gods of media and consumer culture and their ubiquitous propaganda. These fashion-diet victims live in terror of the carbohydrate and the body hair that creeps into the wrong places. They regularly submit to the self-mortifications of fad diets and ritualised waxing or shaving of their – well you know where.  They all will claim it is their choice, that they are liberated like that freedom fighter Miley Cyrus to express themselves, but I am convinced there is some greedy, leering, male advertising executive in the background forcing them to do it. And well, I don’t like it.

In truth, I don’t really want to impose my dress-code of gender equality on women. I am weary of the conceal from men-reveal to men, imperatives of feminine dress codes whether of eastern cover-it-up (read:  backward)or western take-it-off (read progressive) provenance.  It is still about who(he) is looking at whom(her).

The march to gender equality is still in progress. The advancement of women continues to be one of the most significant and let me say it, glorious, developments in human history. Many, many steps forward, and yes from time to time, a few back.  The most important achievement of gender equality is a commitment to treating women like they are adults, endowed with both reason and dignity. They are capable of making choices, even if those choices are influenced by cultural forces that some of us may disagree with. Persecuting pious Muslim women and excluding them from lucrative, stable employment in the government is a huge, ugly leap backwards. And I really don’t like it


September 17, 2013

Pauline Marois is ignoring lessons she herself wanted taught

By Robert Green | Published September 16 by The Montreal Gazette

Premier Pauline Marois needs to go back to high school. If she did she would be exposed to a curriculum that was introduced in 1997 by the Parti Québécois’s minister of education at the time: an ambitious up-and-comer by the name of Pauline Marois.

Here are a few samples of what Mme. Marois would learn from her own curriculum document, the Quebec Education Program:

student-MaroisThe program identifies several “broad areas of learning” that are to be integrated into the teaching of all subjects. In its description of one such the broad area of learning, Citizenship and Community Life, the education plan refers to schools as places that “bring together students of diverse social and cultural origins, with a variety of traditions, beliefs, values and ideologies.” It presents such diversity as an opportunity for teachers, stating: “This makes the school an ideal place for learning to respect others and accept their differences, to be receptive to pluralism, to maintain egalitarian relationships with others and to reject all forms of exclusion.” The educational aim for this area of learning includes developing “an attitude of openness to the world and respect for diversity.”

The Ethics and Religious Culture program also has some important lessons for Mme. Marois. This program has two objectives. The first is the “recognition of others,” which is “linked to the principle that all people possess equal value and dignity.” Because of “the importance (that) each of us attributes to being recognized, particularly with respect to our world-view,” we need to engage in the sort of dialogue that “contributes to building a common culture that takes diversity into account.” The second objective is the “pursuit of the common good.” This is explicitly linked to the principles and values outlined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Section 3 of the charter includes freedom of religion and freedom of expression as being among Quebec’s fundamental freedoms. Section 10 guarantees the exercise of these fundamental freedoms without “distinction, exclusion or preference” based on, among other things, religion.

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September 15, 2013

Video: Westmount High School Protests Against Quebec Charter of Values

September 13, 2013

Painting a picture of intolerance

By Michelle Lalonde | Published September 12, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette
Negative reaction to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values ranges from bemusement through bafflement and all the way to fury, as Quebecers try to imagine how the charter would affect their workplaces and lives if it were ever applied.

The handy diagram provided Tuesday when the Parti Québécois finally unveiled its controversial proposal has raised more questions than it answered.

Pictograms indicating which religious symbols would be allowed in public sector workplaces, and which would be deemed too overtly religious to be tolerated in a secular society, have certainly inflamed the debate.

Hijabs, kippahs, turbans and large crucifixes on a necklace are some of the items the charter would ban public service employees from wearing. Smaller crucifixes, earrings or rings that display religious symbols would be permitted, the diagram indicated.

But what of medium-size crucifixes?

How about a big Star of David on a T-shirt? What if a male employee chooses to wear his beard long and moustache trimmed, a look favoured by some devout Muslims? What about a non-believer who simply likes the look of a large dangling crucifix earring? What about tattoos with religious messages and symbols?

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September 12, 2013

Podcast: Philosopher Charles Taylor, Teacher Robert Green and CPE Director Paula Lamarre Discuss the PQ’s Secular Charter on CBC Daybreak

Click here to download or listen to the podcast

September 5, 2013

Quebec teachers’ federation rejects PQ’s vision for Charter of Values

Government should stop funding private religious schools and take the crucifix out of the National Assembly but leave individuals be: FAE

By Catherine Solyom | Published September 4, 2013 by the Montreal Gazette

If the Parti Québécois government really wants to secularize education in the province, it should stop funding private religious schools — not prohibit teachers from wearing overt religious symbols.

That was the message sent Wednesday by the Fédération autonome d’enseignement — which represents about 32,000 teachers, or one-third of the teachers in Quebec — to the government as the PQ prepares to table its controversial Charter of Quebec Values, rumoured to be set for Monday.

Warning against a polarizing debate that could easily get out of control or be taken hostage by extremists, the FAE urged Pauline Marois and her government to concentrate their efforts on making the state and its institutions secular, not necessarily inpiduals.

Take the crucifix out of the National Assembly’s Blue Room, where any new charter will be debated and turned into law, the FAE said, but respect teachers’ right to freedom of expression and religion (or atheism, as the case may be).

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May 11, 2013

The Chicago Teachers Union: A New Template for Social Justice Unionism?

By Robert Green

This article appears in the Spring 2013 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

247175_460871493992960_1910992725_nOne of the first major protests I can remember attending was outside of the PQ government’s socioeconomic summit in 1996. I was an undergraduate at Concordia and while I definitely understood that this summit represented a threat to social spending, I had no idea of the extent to which this event would be a turning point in the province’s politics. The summit’s so-called consensus on eliminating Quebec’s deficit in 4 years would usher in the deepest cuts to social spending in the province’s history. I’ll never forget the ominous feeling in the crisp fall air outside the summit as evening set and a large effigy of Lucien Bouchard was lit ablaze by protestors, right in the middle of Boulevard René Lévesque.

Since then I’ve watched over and over again as neoliberal governments, in Quebec and elsewhere, have thwarted the efforts of public sector workers to defend their working conditions and protect the quality of public services.

I began my teaching career at what was unquestionably a low point for union morale amongst Quebec’s teachers. Jean Charest had just legislated the province’s teachers back-to-work with a draconian law that imposed massive sanctions on both teachers and their unions if they continued to strike. The only gains made by teachers in this imposed contract carried a dollar value of roughly the same amount that government had saved in unpaid salaries during the strike. The whole experience understandably left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of my colleagues. In the most recent round of negotiations teachers showed little interest in work action and ultimately voted to accept the contract proposed by government.

Meanwhile in Ontario the McGuinty government recently threatened back-to-work legislation before teachers had even announced any intention to go on strike! The heavy handedness just seems to be getting heavier.

As a public sector employee and as someone who strongly believes in the power and potential of unions to improve the lives of working people, these have not been the easiest of times. But as heavy handed as various neoliberal governments have been in dealing with teachers and other public sector employees, their attacks in no way represent some kind of permanent defeat. The rise of neoliberalism is however cause for a serious rethink about the way that unions operate. It is a challenge that calls on the labour movement to do what it has always done when historical circumstances have warranted; it calls on the labour movement to adapt!

It is for this reason that the recent victory of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is so significant. The CTU found a way to win in a context far worse than that of any teachers unions in Canada.

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January 29, 2013

Quebec Curriculum Reform A ‘Slow Simmering Disaster’

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss the underfunding of Quebec schools and the problems with Quebec’s curriculum reform with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher:

Click here to listen

October 19, 2012

The Conflict in Context: A Québec high school teacher’s perspective on the movement for accessible education

By Robert Green

This article appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ edited by Erika Shaker and published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

I teach a secondary five level course called ‘The Contemporary World’ at a public English high school in Montreal. One of the messages I am constantly trying to pass on to my students is that in attempting to understand world events, we should always be wary of overly simplistic formulations. Events do not occur in a vacuum. The historical and political context in which an event occurs always matters.

In recent months, as the student strike in Québec has come to dominate the headlines, I have found myself repeating a very similar message in discussions with students, friends, neighbours and colleagues. The mainstream media has been very successful at framing this conflict in the narrowest of terms; as being strictly about students not wanting to pay a $1,625 tuition increase. With such a simplistic framing of the issue it has been very easy for people to agree with commentators who characterize Québec students as irrational and entitled because they already pay the lowest tuition in Canada.

The problem with this analysis is that if indeed this movement is merely about irrational, entitled students, how does one explain the series of historic demonstrations of between two and four-hundred-thousand people? How does one explain the fact that these demonstrations were filled not just with students, but with teachers such as myself, university and Cégep [college] professors, parents, senior citizens groups, union members, etc.? There’s something missing from the simplistic picture the media is offering us.

In examining the student strike within its broader historical and political context, I hope to offer a more complete picture of the issue. In so doing I also hope to articulate why, as a public school teacher and as a citizen of Québec, I find it important to actively support the movement for accessible education.

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October 18, 2012

Op-ed on Private School Subsidies and Two Letters in Response

Opinion: For my son, English high schools failed

By Juliet Waters | Published October 12, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL — I always expected my children to follow my educational path, more or less: French elementary school to develop a good accent, English high school to develop writing.

Every time I went to alumnae dinners at Sacred Heart School, it seemed tuition had doubled from what it had been at the time of the last dinner. So I figured, no problem: it will be public school for my children. Back in my day, education at a Catholic confessional school was pretty close to that. I had schoolmates from hard-working immigrant families, neighbouring suburbs, Kahnawake (Sacred Heart was once a boarding school) and the wealthiest parts of Westmount. When I went to Marianopolis, I made friends from great public schools.

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Letter: Private schools are out of reach for most families

By Robert Green | Published October 15, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

While I certainly respect Juliet Waters’s decision to do what’s best for her child, her assertion that Quebec’s private schools are meeting the needs of the “lower middle class” is something of a stretch. The average Quebec household enjoys just $53,000 in disposable income. For single-parent households that number drops to just $28,400. It is therefore hard to imagine that, even with some form of subsidy, an average Quebec household could afford the $3,000 per student per year fees charged by many French-language private schools. These numbers illustrate the reality that private schools subsidized by the taxes of all Quebecers are out of reach for the majority of families.

This perverse situation where working class families are subsidizing the education of elites should be opposed by all citizens who believe that educational opportunities should exist for all Quebecers, not just those with above average incomes.

Letter: Public schools serve the common good

By Eric Houde | Published October 13, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

Education Minister Marie Malavoy has political courage I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

The end of subsidies to private schools that choose their students based on admission tests would allow for the rebuilding of our very damaged public education system. Without the subsidy, much of the ordinary (francophone) middle class will be forced to re-invest their children in the public system. That will lead to a not-so-miraculous rise in its success rates. It will also strengthen the culture of achievement for everyone by having more strong, motivated students in the public classroom and vocal middle class parents as stakeholders in the public system. Let us remember that in Montreal, about 35 per cent of secondary students are enrolled in private schools. Compare that to Toronto’s 6 per cent. This has been a disaster for our public schools and thus for our democracy.

Juliet Waters (“For my son, English high schools failed the test” Opinion, Oct. 13) rightly points out a very frustrating reality in Montreal. The public system has to imitate the private system with exclusive admissions standards if some of its schools were to retain strong middle-class students. Because the private system is so inexpensive in Quebec, it is able to attract the strongest students in its drive for top marks and a marketable reputation of excellence. The elite public schools are as good as anything the private system has to offer except they might have poorer infrastructure, mould or torn books. Their brand is not quite as glamorous. They usually don’t have iPads and Chinese language courses like Regina Assumpta, nor are they as successful in accumulating dollars for a huge, wealthy foundation of private donations (tax deductible) to create beautiful entrance ways and music facilities.

When you do the open house circuit and go from the very good French public school Académie de Roberval to Regina Assumpta, it is a vertiginous culture shock. And it seems bloody unfair. Roberval is an admirable yellow school bus of a school with great results. Regina is a Mercedes-Benz, with even better results and a glamorous name. Both will get your kid where he or she needs to go.

The question of where we send our children is an individual decision. Some are convinced they need a Mercedes for their kid. The government, however, must make decisions in favour of the larger good of society. The decision to no longer subsidize the Mercedes-Benz schools is a sound and just policy decision in favour of that old yellow school bus, the common good.

October 12, 2012

Le Devoir on the PQ’s “Ultimatum” to Private Schools

Le Devoir is reporting this morning that the PQ intends to deny public subsidies to private schools with selective admissions:

“Schools that accept everyone will receive public funding. If schools want selective admissions, they will no longer receive public funding” – PQ Education Ministre Marie Malavoy

Ultimatum de Québec aux écoles privées

Québec cessera de financer les écoles privées qui font de la sélection. Les établissements, qui sont subventionnés à 60 % par le gouvernement, devront « accepter tout le monde » s’ils veulent continuer à bénéficier du financement, a soutenu la ministre de l’Éducation, Marie Malavoy, en entretien au Devoir. « Oui, la pression est immédiate. Si vous acceptez tout le monde, vous êtes financés. Si vous voulez faire votre sélection, vous ne l’êtes plus », a-t-elle déclaré.

Selon la ministre, il faut que la répartition de la population étudiante soit plus équitable. « L’école publique a hérité de tous les enfants en difficulté. Notre régime privé, avec les modes de sélection qu’il a, fait en sorte que les élèves qui aboutissent dans le privé sont ceux qui ont de grandes capacités et peu de problèmes. Le poids sur le réseau public de tous ces élèves qui ne passeraient pas ce genre de sélection est énorme », a-t-elle noté.

L’idée voulant que le financement des écoles privées soit « lié » à la sélection est l’une des orientations du Parti québécois avec laquelle Mme Malavoy se dit « très à l’aise ». « Je trouve honnêtement que c’est une position qui se justifie très bien, a-t-elle insisté. On parlait des élèves en difficulté dans le réseau public… si on veut améliorer le sort du réseau public, il faut mettre à contribution le privé. »

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