The dismissal of a Canadian teacher for wearing the hijab in class has sparked widespread condemnation of a controversial law in the province of Quebec, which critics say unfairly targets ethnic minorities on the pretext of secularism.
Fatemeh Anvari, a third-grade teacher in the city of Chelsea, was told earlier this month that she would no longer be allowed to continue in the role because her headgear violated Bill 21, a law passed in 2019.
Under this measure, officials in “positions of authority” – including police officers, lawyers, judges, bus drivers, doctors, social workers and teachers – are not allowed to wear symbols. religious such as turbans, kippahs and hijabs.
But the law has a disproportionate impact on Muslim women and in schools in the province, where 74.5% of teachers are women.
âIt’s not about my clothes. It’s a bigger problemâ¦ I don’t want this to be a personal matter because it won’t do anyone any good, âAnvari told CTV News. “I want this to be something that we all think about how big decisions affect other lives.”
Anvari’s dismissal sparked protests at his school, where students and staff put up green ribbons and posters in his favor.
The decision to remove Anvari from the classroom and reassign her to a diversity and inclusion literacy project also sparked frustration among federal politicians.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said no one should lose their job because of their religion – but refused to intervene, saying he did not want to create a brawl between Quebec and the federal government.
Trudeau said it was important “to make sure that it is Quebeckers themselves who deeply disagree with anyone losing their job because of their religion.”
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said Anvari’s abilities as a teacher had never been in doubt, but “due to her looks and the way she dressed she is no longer able to teach these children. That is all that is wrong with this bill.
Conservative MP Kyle Seeback describe The dismissal of Anvari as “an absolute disgrace”.
While Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said he does not agree with the law, he told reporters he respects provincial jurisdiction and believes Bill 21 is “a matter of ‘it would be better to leave it to Quebecers to decide â.
Federal leaders have been reluctant to anger voters in Quebec by taking too strong a stand against the law.
In Quebec, where the measure enjoys popular support, political leaders have defended Bill 21.
“The reason why this teacher does not have a job is because she did not respect the law”, declared Pascal BÃ©rubÃ©, spokesperson for the Parti QuÃ©bÃ©cois on secularism. âThe law is for everyone. She tried to make a statement by wearing a hijab.
Prime Minister FranÃ§ois Legault called Bill 21 “reasonable law”, adding that Anvari should not have been hired in the first place.
Workers hired before March 2019 are still allowed to wear religious symbols at work. But since Anvari became a substitute teacher last spring and signed a new contract in October, she is prohibited from wearing the hijab in class.
Trudeau said federal intervention would likely not have much of an effect, given Quebec’s ability to invoke a constitutional notwithstanding power known as the “notwithstanding clause” that protects the province from claims that it violates the rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
English-language schools across the province have fought the law and recently lost a court challenge preventing the bill from coming into force.