Canada

Quebec private schools must allow hijabs, skullcaps: human rights commission

Private schools in Quebec must respect students' religious needs, including wearing Muslim hijabs or Jewish skullcaps, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled on Wednesday.

Private schools in Quebec must accommodate students' religious needs, including the wearing of Muslim hijabs or Jewish skullcaps, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled on Wednesday.

The opinion comes two years after Muslim student Irene Waseem was expelled from her private high school after she refused to stop wearing her hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women.

Her family complained to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, but later dropped the case without explanation. Waseem completed her studies at another school.

The commission ruling is expected to protect students in similar situations.

"Unless a private school can show that its religious nature (for example) requires it, necessarily and objectively, to exclude or give preference to certain students, then it too must accommodate people with special needs, including religious needs," said the ruling.

In 1995, the commission issued a similar analysis for public schools, saying they must "reasonably accommodate" religious practices.

Pierre Bosset, the commission's director of research, said he hopes Wednesday's ruling will guide both public and private schools in the province.

"It's a legal opinion issued by the commission. It has no binding force as such," said Bosset. "But it does have, I think, a moral authority."

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