Wearing my hat as communications and marketing specialist for the English Montreal School Board, I left first thing Wednesday morning for Quebec City where at 5 p.m. we were slated to present our brief on draft Bill 60 - the so-called Charter of Values - to a Parliamentary Committee.
The EMSB has been outspoken from the start about this xenophobic piece of legislation, insisting that we will not force any of our employees who wear a hijab, kippa or large religious symbol to remove it or face whatever unknown consequences the government has in mind. We drafted this brief, which prompted the media and the Minister Responsible for Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville to accuse us of encouraging civil disobedience. Well that was kind of putting words in our mouth.
|Drainville shakes hands with EMSB reps.|
In Quebec City our delegation met in advance, held a well attended afternoon press conference and then made our presentation. Drainville was so aggressive in his questioning to our three stellar reps - Chairman Angela Mancini, Vice-Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco and Commissioner Patricia Lattanzio - that Liberal MNA Laurent Lessard had to intervene and tell the Minister that this was not a cross -examination.
While the brief's originality already accuses the government of encouraging bullying, our presentation went one better by emphasizing how Article 37 of the Education Act stipulates schools must respect the freedom of conscience and religion of students. "Which law are we supposed to disobey?" Lattanzio asked rhetorically.
Where this mess is all headed is anyone's guess. Odds are the PQ will call a snap election in the next two weeks. Thanks to the the ineffectiveness of Liberal leader in Philippe Couillard, the PQ is poised to win a majority and then what? They won't need opposition party support to pass anything. This includes the charter.
Via this entire charter debate the EMSB has come to represent more than just a school board- but the English community at large. We should all be very proud.