Many thanks to MissPiggy for translating this article from the Quebec daily Le Devoir:
Examples of proselytizing at the CSDM
Law on the secularity of the state: Veiled educators have become proselytizers. Two Montreal mothers say their daughters have been pressured to adopt Muslim practices.
Proponents of the State Secularism Act will now be able to fight back against their opponents accusing them of fighting an imaginary enemy: two Montreal mothers claim that veiled educators pressured their daughters to adopt Muslim practices. Proof, she says, that the hijab is not always neutral and sometimes leads to proselytizing.
As part of the legal challenge to Bill 21, the feminist group For Women’s Rights of Quebec (PDF Quebec) was allowed to intervene and present witnesses. PDF therefore presented the case of Ines Hadj Kacem and Ferroudja Si Hadj Mohand, two women who emigrated to Canada who say they want to raise their daughters in total gender equality. However, they believe that the Montreal public school has failed in this regard.
I left Tunisia so that my daughter could grow up in an environment respectful of her choices and decisions
— Hadj Kacem
In a sworn statement, Ms. Hadj Kacem recounted that her daughter who attended the daycare at her primary school in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve had been pressured by veiled educators to thank Allah at the end of the meals and to stop using the school caterer because the food served is not halal or contains pork. Ms. Hadj Kacem said she removed her daughter from the daycare after filing several complaints with management.
Freedom of choice
“I left Tunisia so that my daughter could grow up in an environment that respects her choices and decisions,” the affidavit says. “But while attending the public school in my neighbourhood my daughter is under pressure to behave like a “good Muslim”. […] I have the strong impression that wearing a religious symbol by people in positions of authority influences my daughter’s behaviour and makes her question her choices and those of her mother. ”
Ms. Hadj Kacem recounts that her daughter is also under pressure from other schoolchildren because she is not wearing the veil. All this, notes the Montreal mother, “is detrimental to what we come to Quebec to look for, namely the equality between women and men.”
For her part, Ferroudja Si Hadj Mohand recounts that an educator wearing the hijab allegedly stopped a friend of her 9-year-old daughter because she was removing and putting her Islamic veil back in the courtyard of the Montreal North school they attend. The educator reportedly told her that once she was put on, the veil should no longer be removed. Then, turning to Mrs. Hadj Mohand’s daughter, she allegedly asked her when she would start wearing it. The girl felt “embarrassed” and forced to say “Maybe in high school.”
A legitimate prohibition
“We had to have a long conversation [with our daughter] to explain that she didn’t have to lie about her belief to please her educator,” Mohand said in her affidavit. “It is very difficult for my daughters to resist the pressure of their peers to wear the veil, because they do not want to displease, and it is sometimes a sign of belonging to the group. ”
The two women refused to speak to Le Devoir so that the debate could be held in court, as it should be. PDF Quebec’s lawyer, former President of the Council on the Status of Women Christiane Pelchat, explains that these two testimonies are important. “It shows that the ban on religious signs among some civil servants is entirely legitimate and takes into account the right of women to equality, but also the right of children and girls to equality, respect for their religious freedom and the right not to be proselytized.”
The Quebec Secular Movement, which also supports Law 21 and defends it in the same legal challenge, will present the testimony of Jafaar Bouchilaoun. The Algerian-born father deplores the fact that his son’s teacher wears a religious symbol, as he experienced “religious fundamentalism” in his home country, says his lawyer Guillaume Rousseau.
The case is expected to be argued on the merits this fall. After the withdrawal of Johanne Mainville, judge Marc-André Blanchard will preside over the case. It was the same judge who, in June 2018, ruled that Bill 62 on the provision of open-faced public services in the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard could cause “irreparable harm” to Muslim women.
Last year the sociologist Gérard Bouchard, who co-chaired the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation, vilified François Legault’s government’s Law 21. He challenged him to prove that wearing a religious symbol by a teacher had a negative effect on the students.
“What we often hear in this debate is that just wearing a religious sign — the hijab, for example — leads to a form of indoctrination among students. We also hear that it traumatizes some students, or that it is contrary to the pedagogical exercise, or that it compromises the working environment in the classroom, etc.,” Bouchard said. “If any of these elements were ever proven, personally, I tell you right now, I would be tempted to support your bill.”