EMSB reacts to compelling new survey on Bill 21

Montreal, August 10, 2022- A survey conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies, working with polling firm Leger, shows that three years after Bill 21, An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State, was adopted, religious minorities in the province are feeling increasingly alienated and hopeless. 

 “This is highly regrettable, yet not surprising,” commented EMSB Chair Joe Ortona.

Chair Ortona with Hanifya Scott, who retired in June as a teacher at Carlyle. She was only permitted to wear her hijab because of a grandfather clause in Bill 21.

In April of 2021, the Quebec Superior Court struck down key provisions of Bill 21. This decision applied to all English school boards based on Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The provincial government appealed the ruling, so it therefore remains in place.

Justice Marc-André Blanchard  stated that the law violates the basic rights of religious minorities in the province. "[Bill 21] brings about serious and negative consequences for all people who display religious symbols in public," he wrote.

The  EMSB joined the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, individual teachers who wear religious symbols and the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, a teachers’ union in challenging the validity of Bill 21 in Quebec Superior Court.  Bill 21  bars public-school teachers, government lawyers, judges and police officers from wearing religious symbols while at work. 

The EMSB has seen the negative impact of  Bill 21 on its staff and on the culture in its schools and centres. This law is forcing individuals to choose between government employment and a desire to wear religious apparel. “We have had to refuse employment to some qualified candidates and promotions for others,” said Mr. Ortona. “And of course, many have simply not applied.  Most importantly it sends a message of intolerance and exclusion to our students and their families. We hope that this court decision ends the discussion once and for all for it has already caused significant damage to the careers of many individuals.”

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 37,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines. Our network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.


Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213

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