Press Release / Community / Governance

EMSB will not implement measures in proposed religious symbols legislation

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Montreal - Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The English Montreal School Board Council of Commissioners has adopted a resolution stating its strong opposition to any legislation that prohibits or restricts its employees from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions and duties in our schools and classrooms.

EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini stated that like 2014 when the EMSB declared that it would not implement the measures in the former PQ government’s Charter of Values, the Council of Commissioners have taken the same stance.

“The Quebec government has stated its intent to propose legislation to prohibit the wearing of religious symbols for all persons in a position of authority, including teachers,” said Ms. Mancini. “We believe in the secularity of the state while still supporting an individual’s right to freedom of religion.”

The Human Resources Committee of the EMSB, chaired by Commissioner Julien Feldman, studied this issue in recent months. The resolution states that the EMSB believes a religious symbol worn by a teacher in no way impacts their ability to teach and provide quality education in a secular state and that the EMSB values inclusiveness and the diversity of its students and staff and respects their personal and religious rights.

“This proposed legislation would be contrary to the values the EMSB teaches its children, in particular, values of diversity, acceptance, tolerance and respect for individual rights and religious freedoms,” said Mr. Feldman. “The EMSB has never received a complaint from a student or parent about a teacher’s wearing of religious headgear or religious symbol.”

Vice-Chair Joe Ortona, who drafted the resolution, said that the EMSB believes this proposed legislation would be contrary to paragraph 2 (a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees everyone’s right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and contrary to paragraph 2 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees everyone’s right to freedom thought, belief, opinion and expression.

Furthermore Mr. Ortona said that the EMSB believes this proposed legislation would be contrary to subsection 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees that everyone is equal before and under the law and guarantees the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on religion and contrary to section 3 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which guarantees freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, and freedom of expression.

Section 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his/her rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on religion.

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