Montreal

EMSB community speaks out about proposed religious symbols ban

The English Montreal School Board’s emergency meeting Wednesday night drew in teachers, administrators and the public, who unanimously rejected the idea of a ban on teachers wearing religious symbols in schools.

François Legault said he wants to settle longstanding debate over religious symbols by the summer

Parent Linda Sullivan said she thinks schools have more important issues to worry about. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The Quebec government's proposed law that would ban public servants from wearing religious symbols in the workplace met with a cool response from the English Montreal School Board community Wednesday night.

Linda Sullivan, a parent of two children at an EMSB school, got a call about the emergency meeting earlier in the week and decided to attend so she could to speak out about the proposed law.

"The Legault government's legislation is promoting divisions in our society," Sullivan said.

Class size and upkeep of school infrastructure are more important, she said.

In an interview Sunday, Quebec Premier François Legault said he wants the longstanding debate over religious symbols settled by summer.

By Monday, the EMSB responded with the emergency meeting and invited anyone to attend and share their thoughts on the issue.

It was called by school commissioner Julien Feldman, the chair of the EMSB human resources committee, to get feedback on how the EMSB should respond to the proposed law.

"I think it's important to listen to our community and whatever position we end up taking, I think it will have more credibility," Feldman said.

In 2013, the school board rejected the Parti Québécois's charter of Quebec values and Feldman said it feels like the EMSB is "back to square one."

Furheen Ahmed has been a teacher for 12 years and currently teaches at Westmount High School.

Furheen Ahmed has been a teacher for 12 years and attended the meeting to better understand the EMSB's stance on the issue. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

She attended the meeting to understand what the ESMB's approach to the issue is and to voice her opinion.

"I want the EMSB to fight this," she said.

Angela Mancini, the EMSB's chair, said the wearing of religious symbols by teachers has no impact on students.

"If it doesn't touch student success why would we even be looking at it? There are bigger issues," she said.

With files from Matt D'Amours

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