Montreal

Quebec ethics course fight heads to top court

Quebec parents opposed to a controversial ethics course are taking their fight to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Quebec parents opposed to a controversial ethics course are taking their fight to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The new ethics course introduces students to all major religions practised in Quebec. ((CBC))
The Drummondville-area parents group is asking the top court to review their request for legal exemption that would allow schoolchildren to skip a mandatory ethics and religion class currently required to graduate.

The course replaced Quebec's previous religion class with a broader-ranging curriculum that touches on all major faiths practised in the province, including Protestanism, Catholicism, Judaism, First Nations spiritualism and Hinduism.

Parents involved in the case say the course violates their children's right to freedom of religion and they should be allowed to abstain without penalty.

"For these parents, the program relativises their religion and moral values, and certain sociologists even qualify it as indoctrination," said Sylvain Lamontagne, president of the Coalition pour la liberté en éducation (CLE), an organization backing the legal challenge.

"Imposing this course constitutes a grave attack on parents rights," said Richard Décarie, another CLE member working on the case.

Other legal challenges launched

Last fall, Quebec Superior Court rejected the parents' request to be allowed to opt out of the course on religious grounds. The province's highest court said it did not believe the course infringed on freedom of religion.

The new curriculum, introduced in September 2008, has stirred controversy in Quebec's education milieu.

Several legal challenges have been launched, including one by Montreal's prestigious Loyola High School, a Jesuit Catholic institution.

Elsewhere, a group of students in the Eastern Townships were suspended last year after they boycotted the class.

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