Skip to main content

Protesters rally in Chelsea, Que. after hijab-wearing teacher removed from classroom


Hundreds of people gathered in Chelsea, Que. on Tuesday to protest after a teacher was removed from a local classroom for wearing a hijab.

Fatemeh Anvari, a Grade 3 teacher at Chelsea Elementary School, was told she could no longer continue in her role because her hijab ran afoul of Quebec’s Bill 21.

Community members, including parents and children at the school, gathered on Tuesday to voice outrage at the law and express support for Anvari.

“We just wanted to make sure that the Quebec government knows that they can’t get away with this in our community,” David Harris, an organizer of the protest, told CTV News Ottawa. “We see this as a Bill that clearly goes too far in the name of secularism.”

The law passed in 2019 bans the wearing of religious symbols at work by government employees in positions of authority.

Anvari's removal from the classroom sparked widespread outrage and condemnation.

"When it comes to members of our community, we want to show that we stand up for them," Harris said.

Tuesday's protest outside the office of Robert Bussière, the MNA for Gatineau, saw many demonstrators with signs and green ribbons. 

“We’re here to represent Ms. Fatemeh and all the other people who wear hijabs,” says Zoe Neldrum, a student in the Grade 3 class Anvari used to teach, “because it’s wrong and unfair and we want her to be our teacher again because she’s one of the best teachers we ever had.”

Along with school community members, the demonstration featured other local leaders, former election candidates and municipal politicians.

“I am proud of the school board for the advocacy work they have done,” says Shealagh Earle-Meadows, a parent whose daughter was taught by Anvari, but who said she recognizes the law must be upheld. “I think it’s discriminatory, I think it’s a form or racism, and I think it’s really really disgusting message to be sending to our children … I’m hoping more citizens across the nation will start paying attention and start pushing and rallying the federal government to start making some changes.”

Premier Francois Legault said on Friday the school board should not have hired Anvari as a teacher.

“These people, if they don’t wear a religious sign—whether a catholic one a Jewish one whatever the religious sign—if they don’t wear the religious sign in an authority position they can still work,” said Legault. “And they can wear their religious sign on the street at home everywhere else.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the federal government has not ruled out intervening to challenge Bill 21 in court. At a press conference on Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged the prime minister to take action.

“I’m firmly opposed to it. It’s a law that’s discriminatory and a law that hurts people and now we’ve seen the impact directly,” says Singh. “In this moment, I think it’s a time to make it clear that if this case gets to the federal level, that the federal government should support the Quebecers that are opposed to this, should support the three million Quebecers opposed to it and should support those Quebecers that are fighting this discriminatory law.”

Susan Rab, a Chelsea resident, who helped to organize the rally, has been been fighting the law since it was in acted in June 2019 and says it is not fair and not equal.

“Canadian law, human rights law over the decades determined that people have religious rights,” says Rab. “Bill 21 has become a lot more personal for a lot more people in Chelsea and we need to be clear that we don’t want Bill 21 here. This is our community, this is our school.”

Anvari has been offered a new position to work on literacy and diversity with children at Chelsea Elementary School. Top Stories

Stay Connected