Teacher removed from a Chelsea, Que. elementary classroom for wearing a hijab
Parents and students at an elementary school in Chelsea, Que. say they are shocked a teacher was removed from the classroom for wearing a hijab.
The Western Quebec School Board confirms the Grade 3 teacher at Chelsea Elementary School was removed from the classroom because of Bill 21, Quebec's law that bans the wearing of religious symbols by certain government employees deemed to be in positions of authority while at work.
Parents of Grade 3 students at the school received an email on Friday, Dec. 3 letting them know the teacher would no longer be in the classroom. Some parents later learned the teacher was removed because of Bill 21.
"It's shocking as a parent to see this come into action within our small little community," said parent Amanda DeGrace.
"Now to have to have conversations we've had with our kids before, but actually have conversations that they're able to connect the dots of something they're seeing happening in real time and in real life, and it is very sad to me that we're seeing Bill 21 come into action and the impact that it's having on everyone involved."
Quebec's Bill 21 came into effect in June 2019, and prohibits public-sector workers who are deemed to be in positions of authority from wearing symbols such as hijabs, kippahs or turbans while at work.
This week, parents have been placing green ribbons on a fence outside the school in support of the teacher.
"As a way to help show support and solidarity with this teacher who has been affected by this Bill 21," said DeGrace.
"We are asking people to please speak up. It's really, really important as a community that we help to create change and we take action for that change to happen."
In an interview with CTV News Ottawa, Western Quebec School Board interim chair Wayne Daly said the board removed the teacher from the classroom once the human resources department was made aware of the situation.
"The majority of the western Quebecers I've spoken to are against Bill 21, we've made our intentions and our feelings known to the government," said Daly.
"Subsequent to that, the government did proceed with the bill and it is law now, and as a section of the education system within the government it is our responsibility to follow the laws of the province."
All principals at schools within the Western Quebec School Board received a memo outlining the law and to "take it into consideration when you're hiring teachers," said Daly.
Daly says the board told the Quebec government that it "categorically stated our opposition to Bill 21 from the basic human rights perspective," adding the law is "unethical."
The Western Quebec School Board says the teacher will remain employed with the school in "another function," but would not release further details.