Religious freedom has faced another slight this week, after both the major Montreal school boards, the CSDM and the EMSB, folded to Bill 21 and confirmed they will be applying the law as this new school year starts.

Bill 21, known colloquially as the Religious Symbols ban, went into effect earlier this year and forbids any newly hired public servants from wearing anything religiously indicative. 

Religious symbols, as defined by an amendment to the bill, include garments, symbols, jewels, adornments, accessories or headgear.

The size of the object does not matter, nor the religion that it is associated with, although most critics of the law are adamant that it works to legitimize racism and Islamophobia in particular.

It is also important to acknowledge that many countless schools in both of these school boards still boast massive crosses on their facades, as evidenced in the photo above of École Saint-Gabriel-Lalement.

In the early stages of the bill through to its induction into law, both the Commission scolaire de Montréal and the English Montreal School Board were vocal in their intention to disregard the ban and not force compliance with teachers in their schools.

However, both school boards have indicated this week that this is no longer the case.

 

Those affected by the law include individuals working in parliamentary, governmental or judicial institutions, particularly in positions of power, as well as employees of budget-funded bodies, public transit authorities, and other public servants. The full list of individuals who must comply with this law based on their job can be found within the bill here, starting on page 11 (titled Schedule I).

This, therefore, includes teachers working in public schools as they are considered public servants.

Though, apparently the buildings get a pass and are still allowed to be adorned with religious symbols, like the school seen below, École Paul-Buchési.

News that the CSDM had begun to comply with the law broke when The Canadian Press reported job postings that indicated new teachers must not wear religious symbols on the job.


READ ALSO: Religious Groups Are Still Allowed To Hand Out Flyers In The Montreal Metro Despite Religious Symbols Ban

There is a grandfather clause that applies to individuals that are currently employed as public servants and wear religious symbols. These individuals will be allowed to continue to do so, however, any new hires into any of the positions mentioned above will be required to leave their faith symbols at home.

The Quebec government has already had to speak to parents about the desire to pull their children from classes where the teacher currently wears a religious symbol due to the grandfather clause.

The Education Minister made it clear that shopping around for teachers would not become acceptable practice and that parents would need to get over it... though, just for now.

We reached out to both the CSDM and the EMSB and neither took the time to respond to our request for comment.

And while it was exciting to think these two huge institutions could and would stand up and fight back, a law is a law, and as governmentally-funded institutions, it's clear their hands are tied.

What we will have to wait and see is how each individual who is considered to have the, "highest administrative authority," in each institution will apply the law and how strictly.

We will keep you posted as more realities of Bill 21 and the law put forth to respect the "laicity of the State," continue to unfold.

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