Publicly funded daycare operators in Quebec are welcoming the province’s announcement it will ban religious instruction in government-subsidized daycares.
Quebec Family Minister Tony Tomassi made the announcement Wednesday, one day after saying he would not prevent daycare centres from teaching religious beliefs.
"The mission of [early-childhood education centres] is really to help families integrate into Quebec culture," said Annie Turcot, spokesperson for a coalition of publicly funded daycares on the island of Montreal.
On Tuesday, Tomassi had said that Quebec’s public daycares reflect family values and religious instruction was normal in the province.
But on Wednesday, he said the practice will be prohibited.
He said an internal audit has revealed about 20 daycares, which receive public funding, include religious instruction in their educational programs.
"So we have to verify it," said Tomassi. Once that's done, he said he will meet with the daycare administrators, and work with them to eliminate religion from their program.
Tomassi refused to commit to withdrawing the permits of centres that do not comply.
A few years ago, Tomassi's department, which was then run by current Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, granted a permit to an Islamic association so it could open an 80-spot daycare centre in Laval, north of Montreal.
The organization's objective is to "spread Islamic education among Muslims and non-Muslims."
Another example is that of the Beth Rivkah centre in Montreal, which is run by Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz. Its website states that all "daily activities are driven by the spirit of Torah and the Jewish tradition."
Go further: PQ
The opposition Parti-Québécois is demanding the government go even further and declare all daycares secular.
"A lot of people in Quebec [think] this should change," said party critic Nicolas Girard.
Girard accused the Liberals of being so out of step with public opinion that they have resorted to insulting him as a tactic. During question period, he said one minister called him a racist.
The Quebec government has gone too far, said officials with the Quebec Jewish Congress.
"I don't see these secularists taking down the cross on Mount Royal, I don't see them asking for the cross to be removed from the National Assembly, and I don't see them going to work on December 25th," said the group’s president Adam Atlas.
Atlas said he is hoping to meet with ministry officials to discuss the ban.
The daycare brouhaha has unfolded amid the controversy surrounding a Muslim woman in Quebec who was kicked out of a government-sponsored French class because she refused to remove her niqab — a traditional face covering.