CAQ government wants to know how many teachers wear religious symbols

The request comes as the CAQ prepares legislation that would block public workers in positions of authority, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols.

Civil servants try to gather info as CAQ prepares religious symbols legislation

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's Education Ministry is trying to find out how many people its plan to ban teachers from wearing religious symbols will affect.

The ministry has asked school boards whether they have a record of how many staff wear a religious symbol to work.

The English Montreal School Board, Lester B. Pearson and the Commission Scolaire de Montreal all confirmed having received the request.

"Our answer was short and sweet," said Mike Cohen, spokesperson for the EMSB.

"We don't keep such statistics."

The request comes as the CAQ prepares legislation that would block public workers in positions of authority, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols.

School boards and teachers' unions have come out against the idea, and have pointed out such a ban could leave schools already facing a teacher shortage even more short-staffed.

The details of the planned legislation have yet to be made clear, such as whether it will include a grandfather clause for existing teachers.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, the government's point person on the religious symbol ban, stressed that the ministry didn't ask the school boards to conduct a new survey. 

"Right now, we are writing the bill about the secularization of the state ... and I need to know all the information about that subject," he said.

A violation of Charter, CSDM says

Catherine Harel Bourdon, president of the CSDM, Quebec's largest school board, said she received a request by phone last Friday.

She called the request "pretty absurd."

"I would like our Minister of Education to explain what happened last Friday," Bourdon told Radio-Canada.

"Of course we do not do that, we do not do a count, because that goes against the Charter of Rights, which says people have freedom of religion and belief."

Carol Heffernan, the assistant director general of LBPSB, also said it didn't keep such records, and had no plans to collect them.

Members of the Opposition Liberals called on the CAQ government to explain the request. MNA Marwah Rizqy said on Twitter the request amounted to "profiling."

Manon Massé, co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire, said the focus should be improving the state of the province's schools, rather than the religious symbols ban.

Parti Québécois Leader Pascal Bérubé, for his part, said the CAQ should make its plan more clear and say whether existing teachers will be exempt.


Benjamin Shingler is a reporter with CBC in Montreal covering health and current affairs. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.

With files from Jay Turnbull


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