The head of the Université de Montreal is telling the minister behind the charter of secularism to leave his school alone.
"There's no problem. There's no confrontation. Leave us with the role that we've played well for decades," rector Guy Breton railed against having his university subjected to the charter of secularism.
The hearing became confrontational as the tone rose between the head of one of Quebec's most important universities and minister Bernard Drainville.
The rector told Drainville it was time to stop being afraid. "We must stop being scared and stop giving the impression that because people are different there's a danger in it," he told the National Committee hearings studying bill 60.
"That's not our reality."
Going too far
Bernard Drainville said he was "frankly shocked" to hear the rector's comments. In what one Liberal later called "a sermon," Drainville spoke for three minutes about the need for neutrality and equality, about how the rector was falsely accusing him of bad intentions, and how Breton was going too far.
"You are giving an abusive interpretation to the meaning of this bill," he said.
"Frankly, I think you're out of line."
This did not cause Breton to curb his words, however.
Later in the hearing, the rector said he did not want to live in a society where universities are told what they are allowed to do or teach.
He referred to the authoritarian Franco regime in Spain, saying that rectors in Barcelona disappeared when they displeased that government.
"I hope we don't become a society where state control will cause us to not have autonomy anymore," said Breton.
That's when the committee's chair stepped in to call the rector to order.
Luc Ferland told the rector to be careful. "I will ask you to be prudent about your words and the comparisons you make," said the chair, who plays an impartial role but also happens to be a Parti Quebecois MNA.