|EMSB BRIEF STATES THAT BILL 60 PROVIDES A GOVERNMENT ENDORSEMENT TO BULLYING|
MONTREAL, JANUARY 9, 2014- The English Montreal School Board is calling the Parti Québecois government to task for effectively endorsing bullying in draft Bill 60, the proposed Charter Affirming The Values Of Secularism And The Religious Neutrality of The State, As Well As The Equality Of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests.
In its brief submitted to the Quebec National Assembly Committee on Bill 60, the EMSB emphasizes how the Quebec government adopted Bill 56 in 2012. Bill 56 requires that school boards ensure that their schools provide an environment that allows students to develop their full potential, free from any form of bullying or violence. The school boards were deemed responsible for the commitments made in that regard. Public and private educational institutions were also required to adopt and implement an anti-bullying and anti-violence plan and designate a person to implement it.
The text of the legislation places great emphasis on prevention, and requires that assistance be provided to the victim and further acts of bullying or violence must be prevented.
“We find it ironic that a government which still stands behind this important piece of legislation would subsequently go ahead and introduce Bill 60, which if we must be blunt, gives a government endorsement to bullying,” the EMSB brief states. “We see Bill 60, in fact, as a bullying tactic. In speaking to leaders of the Muslim community, they felt that what this does is allow citizens to become vigilantes. The intolerant among us now have tacit support from the government to carry on their ways.
“We have all been horrified by the incidents of racism and xenophobia which has permeated our society since discussion around the Charter began. This proposed legislation brings out the worst in Quebec society. Verbal and physical assaults on persons of minority faith have increased, and tension and aggression increases.
“This is bullying in its worse form if this law is passed, we anticipate there will be more incidents of this nature. An atmosphere of fear is being spread – fear among those individuals who wear objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation.”
The EMSB sees Bill 60 as a bullying facilitator which seeks to eliminate the wearing of religious symbols in the public sector and deprives individuals of rights recognized as fundamental in all non totalitarian societies.
“The EMSB has zero tolerance for acts of bullying in our schools. We see school violence as both a public health and a societal issue. The schools and school system are part of the solution and cannot solve this in isolation. Our government must be a partner with us in promoting safe schools. We are afraid that Bill 60 will produce an entirely new generation of bullies. Schools will be left to suffer the consequences and pick up the pieces.”
EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini and Vice-Chairman Sylvia Lo Bianco thanked members of anad hoc committee assembled to draft the brief, which included representatives from the Council of Commissioners, senior management, in-school administrators and the Montreal Teachers Association.
In the brief, the EMSB makes it clear that it has no intention of implementing any of the related elements of Bill 60 should it be passed by the National Assembly.
“We have adhered to Bill 118, a law responding to the diversity of moral and religious expectations in Quebec. Bill 60 is different, legislation we cannot support nor enforce. To do so would be contrary to both the mandate your Ministry of Education has given us, as well as contrary to our mission and values.”
Article 4 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, states that every person has a right to the safeguard of his dignity, honour and reputation. “This certainly is not reflected in Bill 60,” the brief states. “We therefore agree with legal opinions which have already been made to the effect that the content of Bill 60 violates the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Bill 60 states that public institutions must adopt policies to implement the Charter, and post those policies on their websites. “We cannot, in all good conscience, instruct any of our administrators to discipline an employee for quietly following their religious beliefs,” the brief states. “This is simply not something that we find acceptable in what we still believe is a free and democratic society.”
To read the entire EMSB brief, please go to www.emsb.qc.ca.
Michael J. Cohen