A Winnipeg School Division trustee has put forward a motion to condemn Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits public servants from wearing religious symbols.
Jennifer Chen, trustee for Ward 6, introduced the motion on Nov. 18, calling for the school division to condemn the controversial bill. Quebec’s Bill 21 became law in June 2019, and has faced heavy criticism for encouraging discrimination against religious minorities, such as Muslims.
Chen said immigrant and refugee communities are facing increased discrimination. She said she believes it’s the right time to put forward this motion.
"We are (one of) the most diverse school divisions in Manitoba. We should take a leadership role on this topic," Chen said. "I feel like it’s a critical time to put forward this motion, to reiterate our commitment to all students, staff… That we are committed to creating an inclusive environment in our schools."
Chen said one of her top priorities as school trustee is to increase the diversity among teachers in Winnipeg School Division. She said that a lot of refugees and immigrants were concerned about Quebec’s Bill 21, with this new motion, she hopes that the division will be a role model for their immigrant and refugee students.
On Oct. 24, Winnipeg City Council voted unanimously to oppose Quebec’s Bill 21.
Abdikheir Ahmed is a father of two kids, both of whom go to school in Winnipeg. His family is Muslim, his wife wears the hijab, a religious veil that usually covers the head and chest area.
He said he’s happy the motion is on the table.
"There are many people in this (school division) who would face discrimination because they are visible with their religion. My kids are struggling with it, many of my friends are struggling with what’s happening in Quebec," Ahmed said. "This is an opportunity to stand up and say we don’t expect this kind of discrimination here. We are an open society that respects everyone’s religious background."
The motion was originally going to be passed on Nov. 18, but since several trustees had to leave or could not attend, the meeting did not have quorum. The motion has been pushed back to the Dec. 2 board meeting.
For more information on the meeting, as well as how to register as a delegate, visit winnipegsd.ca
Community journalist — The Metro
Justin Luschinski is the community journalist for The Metro. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org