Ottawa

Protest supports Quebec teacher removed from classroom for wearing hijab

Parents, students and other community members in the small community of Chelsea, Que., rallied on Tuesday to show support for a local teacher who was recently removed from her classroom for wearing a hijab due to the province's Bill 21.

'Now there's a face to the issue,' parent says of teacher Fatemeh Anvari's experience

Chelsea residents protest against Bill 21 after elementary teacher removed from classroom

5 months ago
Duration 0:41
Lina El Bakir, Quebec advocacy officer with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says Bill 21 flies in the face of the Quebec values she grew up with. Ivan Krongold, a Grade 6 student, says it’s important for all people to be able to express themselves.

Parents, students and other community members in the small community of Chelsea, Que., rallied on Tuesday to show support for a local teacher who was recently removed from her classroom for wearing a hijab. 

Fatemeh Anvari began teaching a Grade 3 class at Chelsea Elementary School earlier this fall, which is part of the Western Quebec School Board

Just one month into her new job, she said the school principal told her she had to work at a new position outside the classroom because she wears a hijab.

Fatemeh Anvari's removal stems from Bill 21, a fairly new Quebec law that states some civil servants in positions of authority — including teachers — can't wear religious symbols while at work.

"I think that's really, really unfair," Vivian Osbourne, a student at the school, said of the decision to move Anvari out of a classroom position. Anvari continues to work at the school, but on a literacy project for students targeting inclusion and awareness of diversity. 

"That's like saying you can't wear shoes to school," another student at the protest, Etta Dyer, said of the move. 

Etta Dyer, left, and Vivian Osbourne, right, who each attend Anvari's school, were among several students attending Tuesday's rally. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Osbourne and Dyer were among about 150 people who huddled and held signs several hundred metres from the office of Robert Bussière, the member of Quebec's National Assembly representing the Gatineau electoral district.

Parent Amy Pitkethly, who helped organize the rally, said she's not surprised by the national attention Anvari's story has received in recent days. 

"I think when [Bill 21] came in, the rest of Canada, a lot of Quebecers were frustrated and were against the law," she said. "But we went on with our lives and, you know, you're busy and you take care of your family. But now there's a face to the issue." 

Fellow parent Emily Dyer said, while opposition to the bill began before it became a law, Anvari's removal "really hits home" and serves as a rallying cry.

"It's real people who are in the untenable situation of having to choose between practising their religion, continuing to have their identity and being able to maintain a job. That is untenable," she said.

About 150 people gathered in Chelsea, Que., on Tuesday to protest Bill 21 and support local teacher Fatemeh Anvari, who was removed from a classroom for wearing a hijab. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ontario.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

with files from Radio-Canada, Kimberley Molina and Peter Zimonjic

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