At the end of June, the Autonomous Federation of Education (FAE) will hold its congress for 2022. This will undoubtedly be an opportunity to return to its legal intervention against the law on secularism of the state (Bill 21), as stated by several of its members being denounced.
To fuel the debate, here is a brief reminder of the points raised during the challenge of Bill 21 in the Superior Court regarding the importance of state secularism in our schools.
In front of the project public school educational
The learning of universal and scientific knowledge, as well as the development of a critical and rational mind, this is the basis of the education project in Quebec. The mandate of teachers is clear, it is this kind of learning that they must pass on to educate the citizens of tomorrow, capable of finding solutions to the challenges that surround us, such as climate change or pandemics. It is therefore in this very specific context that a duty of discretion is required with regard to the representation of the political views and ideological choices of the teaching staff. It is also for this reason that public schools have been deconfessionalized, crucifixes have been removed from classrooms, and advertising in schools and textbooks has been banned.
According to Jacques Beauchemin, a specialist in Quebec sociology and social ethics who testified before the Superior Court, “The outward display of a religious sign dispels the mission of Quebec’s public schools, which is to create a neutral space, sheltered ideological and theological tensions”. In defending the display of religious symbols for teachers, the FAE seems to pay little attention to the professional ethics of the school environment and contradict the educational project of the public school that has become secular.
best interests of the child
Parents, many of whom belong to Muslim culture, have testified in the Superior Court that the conception of women and the relationship between men and women conveyed by certain religious symbols deeply offends them and thus their teacher/teacher-parent-child relationship. affects. † According to Georges-Auguste Legault, specialist in professional ethics, “because the relationship of trust between the teacher and the students and parents is a precondition sine qua non to maximize the quality of the educational relationship, wearing a religious sign can cause a breach of trust. †
When they conflict with the personal values of the parents, the religious symbols worn by the teachers can harm the best interests of the child.
For freedom of conscience
Freedom of conscience is above all the choice to believe or not to believe, it is the right of every person to adopt the values, principles, opinions, religions or beliefs that suit him to lead his existence. It is a “protection against interference” in one’s intellect and mind, including protection against the official imposition of uniformity or orthodoxy.
However, parents came to testify in Superior Court to argue that the wearing of the veil by their child’s teacher violated their freedom of conscience and their right to raise their children according to their own beliefs. For them, the religious beliefs conveyed by the religious symbols worn by these teachers do not match their beliefs and they are insensitive knowing that their children attend public school for ten months of the year. They face the moral dilemma of explaining to their children why they do not want them to abide by the religious beliefs of their teachers, at the risk of undermining their bond of authority. They sometimes have to waive their right to care for their children’s moral or religious upbringing in order not to damage the trust or model their children have developed with the teacher. This moral dilemma and the undue influence of the teacher on the education of their children constitutes an attack on their freedom of conscience.
The position of the FAE
When teachers claim the right to wear religious symbols in public schools, they claim that they can convey specific values and messages regardless of the educational goals of the school, the democratic choice of Quebec society, to being representatives of the state and worse, to respect for the freedom of conscience of the citizens served. When it comes to religious values, it is called proselytizing. This is, in a sense, the position defended by the FAEwhen it advocates absolute freedom of religious expression for its members in its opposition to Bill 21.
In the interest of our children and our collective future, let us hope that the FAE uses its Congress in 2022 to consult, in light of the elements submitted to the Court, all of its members on its legal implications with regard to to Law 21†