Quebec’s Teachers’ Union Sides against Charter of Values

A major Quebec teachers’ union has openly spoken against provincial government’s anticipated ban on wearing religious headgear and symbols in schools, asserting that it won’t go on a “witch hunt” among teaching staff. The union which represents at least 32,000 public-school teachers in the French-language system, Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, mentioned in a statement that Parti Québécois government is taking a wrong-headed approach to seeking to ensure State secularism.

After announcing his stance in a news conference, president of the union, Sylvain Mallette, stated that “we won’t go on a witch hunt to see who wears a hijab, kippa or cross.” He added that “we will defend the right of our members to work.” Mallette alleged that there are real issues over religious accommodations in public schools.  It was explained that “preventing someone from wearing a hijab or kippa isn’t a way to ensure the secular nature of the state and its institutions.” Mr. Mallette alleged that “for us, respecting secularism has nothing to do with whether you wear religious symbols or accessories.”

The cabinet minister responsible for the Charter file, Bernard Drainville, mentioned during a radio interview this week that the PQ government is planning to leave the crucifix in place, citing reason that it is part of Quebec’s heritage. During a Radio-Canada interview on Tuesday night, he added that “the decision we took as a government is that we won’t turn our backs on the past … we have a history in Quebec, we have a culture, and we’ll respect it.”

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