JACFA Alert: November 29 GA to take stand on Law 62

Dear Colleagues,

At the General Assembly this coming Wednesday, we will be debating JACFA’s response to Quebec Law 62 on religious neutrality, including a motion of non-participation when it comes to the application of the law by teachers.

In order to facilitate your participation, we would like to provide some basic background information on how the law affects teachers, and the rationale behind the proposed motion.

Teachers implicated by Articles 10 and 11

Article 10 of the law stipulates that employees of public organizations—defined in Article 2 to include CEGEPs — must perform their work with uncovered faces. It further states that those receiving services from the same institutions must also uncover their faces.

In addition, Article 11 of the law stipulates that the individual service provider (in our case, the teacher) may grant an exemption to the service restrictions in Article 10 based on grounds of reasonable accommodation, if a request is made and deemed reasonable by that service provider.

The implication of these articles for CEGEP teachers is two-fold. Firstly, people who cover their faces for religious reasons cannot work as teachers. Secondly, the law assigns teachers the responsibility to decide if a student wearing a religious face covering may remain in a CEGEP classroom. This responsibility was reaffirmed in a subsequent legal “clarification” (link to text) by Justice Minister Stéphanie Valée. She said that in schools, the law applies in classrooms but not when students are walking the halls.

Rationale for the JACFA Executive Motion

We believe that it is wrong, and most probably unconstitutional, to deny someone employment, an education, or any public service for that matter, based on their religious convictions and expression of those convictions. Furthermore we believe that, as teachers, one of our primary responsibilities is to educate our students; asking teachers to deny students an education, or to decide which accommodations are reasonable, and which are not, puts us in direct conflict with our professional responsibilities and our vocation. Therefore, we believe that teachers should play no part in the application of this law.

Beyond our immediate work environment, this law lends credibility to racist discourses that have been used to justify the denial of rights to certain groups. In recent years, the emergence of these discourses–often based on racist and sexist stereotypes and twisted notions of “reasonable accommodation” and “secularism”, has coincided with the rise of xenophobic groups (link to story) and racially based violence, most notably the mass shooting at the Quebec City mosque this past January (link to story).

For more background information on the issue, please visit the JACFA website, where we have posted the full text of the law, copies of the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights, positions taken by FNEEQ related to the matter, the text of the recent legal challenge of the law, filed by the National Council of Muslim Canadians.

At the General Assembly, we will be providing a full explanation of the issue and attached motion. We hope you will be able to join us for this important debate, which will have an important impact not only on our work place, but also on justice and equality in our society.

In Solidarity,

The  JACFA Executive

Roy Fu
Jeffery Brown
Stephen Bryce
Richard Masters
Ethan Mombourquette
Tanya Rowell-Katzemba