|ROYAL WEST ACADEMY`S “JEWISH CLUB” TO RESURFACE IN CONFORMITY WITH BILL 118 AS “LIFE 101”|
MONTREAL, OCTOBER 1, 2013 –Under Bill 118, a law responding to the diversity of moral and religious expectations in Quebec, the English Montreal School Board continues to provide a school environment which reflects diversity and pluralism.
The EMSB wishes to respond to a recent report in the Canadian Jewish News which stated that Jewish clubs were discontinued at Royal West Academy in Montreal West, Royal Vale School in NDG and Westmount High School.
According to Bill 118, which was adopted by the Quebec government in 2000 after public school boards were deconfessionalized, activities sponsored by schools must be inclusive, pluralistic and educational. Religious services for one particular faith cannot be held in the building during or after school hours. If a school wishes to have a multicultural/multifaith discussion or presentation, representative religious leaders from a church, synagogue, mosque or temple may participate only as invited guests of the trained facilitator.
In the case of Royal West Academy, while its Jewish club was open to all faiths, the outside rabbi needed to be accompanied by a trained facilitator. The program at Royal Vale was proceeding without the knowledge of the principal while any such club at Westmount High had ended on its own several years ago.
Royal West Academy was in the process of preparing for a program which would meet the needs of the students and be in line with Bill 118 organized by its trained spiritual community animator, when the Canadian Jewish News story was printed.
Life 101, which is already in place in some other schools, will consist of classroom/lunch-time workshops focusing on a variety of issues such as world religions, music and religion, religion and science, tests of faith, genocide and its implications and Holocaust sensitization. As such, rabbis can be brought in as guest speakers as can priests, imams and other religious leaders in order to encourage a pluralistic view. Royal West Principal, Tony Pita, says he has explained the program to a number of parents whose children wanted to enroll in the Jewish club and they are pleased with the plan of action.
“Since 2000, the EMSB has worked hard to support school environments that reflect diversity and pluralism in accordance with Bill 118,” says EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini. “Consequently, the schools of the EMSB have held and will continue to hold multi-faith celebrations and encourage activities and clubs, that honour and respect our multi-cultural society, in line with Bill 118, while focused on the needs of the students.”
Royal Vale, Westmount High and all other schools will continue to implement programs, celebrations and activities to meet the needs of their students. Each school works with their spiritual community animator, principal and staff to create a growth action plan that is suitable to their needs. There are various titles, themes and programs in all of the schools that are reflective of the philosophy of pluralism and Bill 118. “These activities have been ongoing in our schools for many years and are accepted and appreciated by staff, students, and parents,” says Ms. Mancini
It should be pointed out that a course called Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) is mandatory in all elementary and high schools in Quebec according to the Basic School Regulation. Its aim is to adopt a descriptive approach to the diverse religious heritage of Quebec while promoting a “culture of dialogue” among students.
The EMSB continues to offer the Heritage Language Program or PELO (Programme de l'enseignement des langues d'origine), in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. Leisure and Sports (MELS). This PELO Program aims to improve the students knowledge of their heritage language and gives greater depth to the students' understanding of human experience by fostering an appreciation of the customs and achievements of people within their community. The Hebrew Language PELO Program is offered at a number of elementary schools, including Royal Vale.
Over the years, the EMSB’s team of spiritual community animators has organized field trips to synagogues, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the matzah factory. Cultural exchange programs between the EMSB’s Laurier Macdonald High School in St. Léonard and LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent with Bialik High School in Côte Saint-Luc have been ongoing for many years. These are merely a sampling of the special projects, activities and celebrations that have been happening at EMSB schools since 2000.
“The EMSB is recognized by the MELS for the structure of Bill 118 and the growth and development of the spiritual and community animation service,” says Ms. Mancini. “From the year 2000, the EMSB has implemented Bill118 with the respect of the Charter of Human Rights. We have developed projects and resources with a pluralistic and inclusive educational approach.”
Michael J. Cohen