Concordia University representatives told hearings on Quebec’s controversial proposed secular charter Thursday that the bill is a threat to the university’s traditional freedoms and independence.
“We are already a totally secular institution,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, vice-president of academic affairs at Concordia, adding that universities are autonomous of the state and the church.
If passed, the charter would see workers in the public sphere such as teachers and doctors banned from wearing religious symbols.
Bacon and Roger Côté, vice-president of services at Concordia, appeared before a legislative committee to reiterate opposition to the proposed secular charter that the university expressed last December in a joint statement by its senate and board of governors
In that statement, the university said the charter ran contrary to Concordia’s commitment to its “unifying values” of freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience.
“The interaction among such a range of cultures and religions at our university contributes to the intellectual and social development and the vitality of Quebec,” the statement read.
Côté echoed that sentiment Thursday at the hearings.
“Differences enrich us,” he said. “We’ve always found ways to live together and learn together.”
Bacon also read a number of anecdotes collected from students that spoke to the importance of tolerance and attested to thoughts of leaving Quebec to study elsewhere as a result of the charter debate.
He also expressed concern for what he said was the charter’s potential to deter prospective students and faculty.
“It’s a very competitive market and this will make it harder to attract students and staff. When we add extra rules, it makes people less receptive to offers,” he said.
Bacon said the university has already experienced a drop in admissions for next year.
“We have to protect our ability to attract the best,” he said