Pour Nos Enfants argues that the Quebec government should allow high schoolers to wear reusable three-ply face masks as a substitute for disposable ones due to the damage that single-use masks may cause to the environment.
We cannot create new damage to the environment when there is a better solution.
Alayne Moody, Pour Nos Enfants Montréal organizer
Dr. Kelly Martin, an organizer at PNE-MTL claimed that studies do not "demonstrate that procedural masks are more effective than masks made of three-layer fabric, which are made from tightly woven fabrics."
Often, Dr. Martin argued, single-use face masks are too large for small faces, "resulting in a poor fit and offering less protection against COVID-19 than well-fitting three-layer fabric masks."
Under the current policy, high school students and teachers are each given two single-use masks every day.
"Disposable masks have devastating effects on the environment," Pour Nos Enfants said in a press release.
The office of the minister of education, Jean-François Roberge, told the Canadian Press on Tuesday that it's "inviting schools" to use recycling services for the masks.
But the petition argues that the masks are "made from plastic that is not easily recycled" and "end up in landfills or pollute our urban and natural environments."
Based on their observations, Quebec high school students would use and dispose of "84.5 million masks by June 2021."
"Our planet is linked to our health and long term survival. We cannot soil it with single-use masks when there is a safe alternative," said Jennifer Roberge, Pour Nos Enfants organizer.
The bill was first tabled by Quebec's Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, in December 2020, and it was passed following consultations between the government and Indigenous families in Quebec.
The goal was to meet the needs of Indigenous families while respecting their "culture and language, and also their suffering," according to the ministry.
The ministry also said it hopes "to support families in their quest for truth and also in the healing process."
In 2019, a report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called on the Quebec government to provide Indigenous families with information on children who had been apprehended following admission to a hospital or health centre in Quebec.
How does the new law work?
Once it's implemented on September 21, Bill 79 will give Indigenous families access to personal information from "a health and social services institution, an organization or a religious congregation" about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance or death of children admitted to a health and social services institution in Quebec before December 31, 1992.
The government will provide the information through exemptions to Quebec's current laws that prevent disclosing personal information.
Under the new law, Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs will also have the power to launch an investigation if government information could help Indigenous families, but can't be disclosed because of the province's existing rules on disclosing personal information.
How have Indigenous leaders reacted to the new law?
On June 14, leaders from the Cree Nation said that while the law is an important step to "apologize or begin to compensate for the harm suffered by Indian Residential School survivors," the scope of the law needs to be revised since Indigenous children "were taken and never returned" for reasons beyond medical care in Quebec.
The Cree Nation specified that Quebec's education system was the largest "pretext for the institutionalized abduction of children," and that the school system's absence from Bill 79 means more action is needed.
The Grand Council of the Crees stated that not all Indigenous youth or community members will feel comfortable contacting the Quebec government for help with traumatic events that were associated with "governments they do not feel are their own."
The Council recommended that Quebec put mechanisms in place so Indigenous governments can represent and serve the needs of their own people.
The 100,000 square-foot residence is designed specifically for 300 students, built with custom storage and a workstation in each room, along with two shared study rooms, colour schemes tailored to students' preferences and custom furniture by Werkliv.
Le Mildoré will be the tallest residential building in Montreal to be built of steel instead of concrete, and will only have bicycle parking. The temperature in each apartment will be controlled by a heating and cooling system that uses the building's water supply.
Rent will start at approximately $885 monthly per student, minus expenses.
Gender and sexuality identified as areas of difficulty
The school board passed a resolution at the end of March, banning the use of the n-word in its schools.
Testimony solicited from the public included accounts from both students and parents that shared their challenges and difficulties in LBPSB schools.
Through the accounts, the task force identified four major "recurring themes":
Gender stereotypes that dictate what is "appropriate" for boys and girls
Gender stereotypes that produce a "narrow understanding" of masculinity
Gender-based double standards
Bullying linked to gender and sexuality
The report found that schools' dress codes singled out girls by forbidding them from wearing spaghetti-strap tank tops, short shorts and crop tops, explicitly banning "clothing that is unnecessarily sexualised" and "skimpy or revealing clothing."
Parents offer accounts of sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia
One parent said they raised their seven-year-old daughter without gendering her toys, but after attending first grade at an LBPSB school, she began to tell her parents that some toys were only for boys.
Another parent said, "My son loves the colors pink and purple, but he constantly tells me he doesn’t want to wear t-shirts in those colors to school because people have told him (other students) that those are girl colors."
Mothers of Black sons that attended LBPSB schools — which have a predominantly white student body, according to the report — said they felt their sons were being subjected to racism by teaching staff.
"One boy told his mother that his teacher just doesn’t like him because he’s Black [...] On one occasion in particular, the young man was suspended because the teacher said that she felt 'threatened' by him, however, the young man said that he didn’t do anything but ask why she was sending him down to the office," the report read.
The full report, including the Task Force's recommendations, is available here.
There were at least 11 residential schools in Quebec.
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Residential schools were facilities run by churches and the Canadian federal government. Indigenous children "were taken from their families and communities" and forced to "attend schools which were often located far from their homes," the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation states on its website.
The Commission notes, however, that its list "excludes any school that operated without federal government support."
In addition to these 11 institutions, the Government of Canada also refers to Fort George Hostels on its own list of residential schools in the province.
When did Quebec's residential schools open?
According to the history of the residential school system compiled in the Commission's final report, there were only two residential schools in Quebec (both in Fort George) before the 1950s. However, four new schools opened between 1952 and 1963.
The Commission attributed this wave of residential school openings to "greater interest in developing the economic resources" in the province's "mid-North."
"To facilitate this development," the final report states, "Indian Affairs began to play a larger and more direct role in the lives of Aboriginal people in the region. Thisis included the relocating of some communities, the establishment of reserves, and the opening of residential schools."
Three of the residential schools that opened in Quebec in the mid-20th century closed in the '70s, according to the Commission.
The Pointe-Bleue residential school was active until 1991.