To the apparent aggravation of Minister Bernard Drainville, officials from the English Montreal School Board would neither admit to nor dismiss any possibility of openly defying his secularism charter, if passed.
“Do you rule out civil disobedience, clearly and explicitly, yes or no?” The minister asked six times.
“I ask you, please, to carefully weigh the words you’re using,” he told EMSB chair Angela Mancini, vice-chairman Sylvia Lo Bianco and member of the Education committee Patricia R. Lattanzio.
But the EMSB merely pointed to contradictions it saw with the Education Act, and said they have a duty to uphold diversity.
“Your charter is positioning us in a situation where we can not apply the law,” said Mancini.
Eventually, a Liberal MNA objected and said the EMSB was not on trial.
It led the chair to ask the minister to “insist a little less.”
Drainville also noted that other participants had said religious symbols would have a negative effect on children.
“Do children have rights according to you?” asked Drainville. “Or is it just the teachers that have rights and the children are just spectators?”
The minister also quizzed the EMSB three times on whether it would allow a teacher to work in a nikab or a chador.
School board officials said the questions were outside the point they were trying to make in their appearance, but that any face covering would create a security problem.
It again led to Drainville’s frustration.
He spoke for nearly two minutes about how the EMSB’s answers were not sufficient.
“It seems to me the answer should be, ‘Mister Drainville, a teacher who covers their face is unacceptable for us,” he said.
Once again, a Liberal MNA called another point of order. Laurent Lessard said participants do not come to the assembly to get a lecture from the minister.