Westmount High teachers protest against CAQ government's religious symbols policy

"We are free individuals who can wear what we want and what we wear doesn't determine how we teach," said Sabrina Jafralie, who teaches ethics and religious culture at the high school.

'If the CAQ thinks that this is going to come easily without a battle, they've got to think twice'

Sabrina Jafralie, who teaches ethics and religious culture at Westmount High, says religious symbols are part of the diversity in our society. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Teachers at Westmount High held a rally outside the public high school on Ste-Catherine Street West this morning to protest against the new provincial government's proposed ban on religious symbols for public servants.

A group of about 30 of the school's staff gathered in front of the entrance, wearing pins highlighting the school's diversity and carrying colourful signs decrying the Coalition Avenir Québec's proposal. 

The rally coincides with the day the CAQ will unveil its cabinet members.

"We are free individuals who can wear what we want and what we wear doesn't determine how we teach," said Sabrina Jafralie, who teaches ethics and religious culture. 

"What determines if I'm a good teacher is if my students are critical thinkers, are open-minded."

Westmount High teachers protest the swearing in of the CAQ government Thursday. They are against its proposed ban on public servants wearing religious symbols. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The CAQ, which won a majority in the provincial election, wants to ban civil servants in positions of authority, including judges, prosecutors and police officers, from wearing religious symbols. Teachers are also included in the policy.

In solidarity with those affected, Jafralie wore Buddhist prayer beads. She has a tattoo on her arm of the Hamsa hand, a symbol representing the hand of God across several faiths.

"We're human at the end of the day. Our skin and our clothes do not make us not human," Jafralie said.

Students' futures could be affected, teacher says

Another teacher, Robert Green, who teaches social sciences and helped organize the rally, was also wearing Buddhist prayer beads. 

"If the CAQ thinks that this is going to come easily without a battle, they've got to think twice," Green said.

Another 14 teachers at the school have been wearing religious symbols in reaction to the election of the CAQ, he said. 

Green said a colleague, a teacher at the school, wears a headscarf and could be affected by the policy if it passes.

The CAQ has said it may include a grandfather clause in its bill that would allow a number of public servants, including teachers, who already have a job to continue wearing their religious symbols.

Robert Green, a social sciences teacher, has been wearing Buddhist prayer beads in solidarity with teachers from religious minority groups. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

"We're worried that even if the CAQ comes in with what it's calling its grandfather clause, that they will be rendering our students second-class citizens," Green said.

"We're a very multicultural school here, we have a lot of young girls who wear the hijab and a lot of young boys who wear the kippa."

It's not the first time Westmount High teachers rallied against such a proposal.

They did so when former premier Pauline Marois's Parti Québécois government put forward its charter of values, a similar policy to what the CAQ is proposing.

With files from Lauren McCallum

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