Chairman of Lester B. Pearson School Board says she’s prepared to constitutionally challenge the proposal if passed.
© Chronicle photo Anthony Abbondanza
LBPSB chairman Suanne Stein Day (right) is worried the charter of values will put staff in an uncomfortable dilemma with their faith
Quebec has been subject to much scrutiny in recent days after a democratic institutions minister announced a proposal that could drastically impact religious accommodation in the province.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) is among the many West Island institutions criticizing the proposed charter of values, announced last Tuesday by Minister Bernard Drainville.
“As a whole I think it’s an acrimonious proposal that doesn’t have any chance of being passed as law,” said Suanne Stein Day, the school board’s chairman.
The PQ has launched a $1.9-million campaign with television advertisements, a 1-800 phone line service and a website to spread what they deem “clear rules and common values that will come to terms with tensions and misunderstandings.”
Included in the proposal is the province’s neutrality and independence from religion and the prohibition of wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols by civil servants, such as state, health care, and school personnel.
For Stein Day, the charter of values poses the uncomfortable dilemma of choosing between work and fundamental beliefs.
“For women who wear the hajib, it’s important to them and I certainly would never ask them to take it off and I think a lot of them have strong beliefs and would refuse to take it off because it will diminish their stature in their students eyes. If students saw their teacher comply with this, they’re going to see less of their teachers because she’s not standing up for herself,” said Stein Day.
The government has ways to go before introducing the bill this fall in the National Assembly as both the Liberal Party and the Coalition Avenir Quebec have criticized the charter of values.
Geoff Kelley, Liberal MNA for Jacques Cartier, said Quebec has other issues to worry about other than the religious accommodation debate.
“The numbers show that we lost jobs over the last year. That’s what we should be focusing on as opposed to something that separates Quebecers,” said Kelley.
According to Kelley, the Liberal Party will affirmatively reject the bill if in fact it gets introduced.
If it does, however, the government will see Stein Day and other LBPSB officials in the provincial capital soon after. The school board is prepared to draft a brief regarding their concerns and disagreement, and even challenge the charter of values on a constitutional level – if ever the proposal becomes a reality.
“The school board is prepared to react. We don’t want to overreact; it’s nothing more than a proposal. It’s not even a draft bill. Mr. Drainville says he plans to go forward. If he gives us a chance to react to it, we absolutely will,” said the chairman.