Montreal teacher has a message for the CAQ: 'I teach, I do not convert'
Westmount High teacher Sabrina Jafralie says she wouldn't choose between her career and her faith
As a teacher with more than 18 years of experience, it is appalling to think that my professionalism is being questioned by my new provincial government, the Coalition Avenir Québec.
Born and raised in Quebec, I grew up in a home filled with interfaith harmony. My dad was a practising Muslim. My mom is a practising Christian. I go to church regularly on Sundays and also attend mosque from time to time. My parents always thought I was doubly blessed.
Perhaps that is why I strive to ensure that all my students are open-minded, well-rounded critical thinkers.
In 2013, when Pauline Marois proposed the "Charter of Values" (Bill 60), I had an overwhelming need to speak out against it. I clearly committed to protesting against a bill that discriminated against me and my colleagues.
After the bill died on the order paper following an election call in 2014, I thought, perhaps naively, that this type of bill would not resurface in a pluralistic Quebec. Yet, four years later, I find myself in the same position — protesting to protect the fundamental rights of members of my school community.
The CAQ's proposal to ban religious symbols for some civil servants is problematic for several reasons.
- New Quebec government open to allowing existing teachers who wear religious symbols to keep their jobs
Erasing cultural diversity?
First, the CAQ deems the crucifix a heritage symbol. However, this in no way erases its religious symbolism for millions of Catholics around the world and in Quebec.
The crucifix does not lose its religious meaning simply because it is also part of our province's heritage.
The very fact that it remains in the National Assembly shows hypocrisy and, even more so, begs the question: is this an attempt to further rewrite Quebec's history and reduce the contributions of others such as Indigenous peoples, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs?
This argument smells like a revisionist attempt to erase the cultural diversity that has made Quebec society what it is.
Additionally, why is it acceptable to single out religions whose adherents wear head coverings? Why should a suit-wearing evangelical Christian have the opportunity to be a judge, a police officer or a teacher, but not a Sikh whose turban symbolizes a commitment to the poor and the oppressed?
As the leader of the province whose population represents the largest linguistic minority in Canada, one would think that this point would not be lost on Premier François Legault.
Apparently understanding the basics of a high school civics course is not a criterion for becoming premier.
Let me be absolutely clear that I do not agree with any teacher using their classroom to proselytize, whether it is for religious or non-religious purposes.
That being said, it is impossible for any teacher to be perfectly neutral. The problem is not that teachers have views; it only becomes a problem if teachers use their power to impose their views in a way that hinders the free exploration of ideas and critical thinking.
If the CAQ would like to force me into an impossible choice — my faith or my career — frankly, I would not make that choice.
I would continue to be a teacher and a religious believer.
To hide one's identity, whether religious or otherwise, is inauthentic. It does not allow teachers to build meaningful relationships based on trust, openness and respect with their students.
I will say one last thing to the CAQ and its members: if you would like training to improve your civic religious literacy, I am a co-founding director of the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy and would be happy to help.
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