The Concordian regrets that there were unintentional similarities between Kalina Laframboise’s article, “Dissent continues to grow for Bill 60,” published Dec. 20 by the Canadian University Press and Tim Weynerowski’s article, “Concordia University denounces Bill 60,” published on Jan. 7 in The Concordian.
The following are the two paragraphs in question from the Jan.7 article.
“As the third and last English university to publicly denounce the Parti Québécois’ proposed legislation, Concordia Universityto the Quebec Charter of Secular Values (Bill 60) with a letter from president Alan Shepard and a joint statement issued on Dec. 18 by the Senate Steering Committee and Board Executive Committee.”
“Both universities take issue with certain key elements of the proposed Charter which include prohibiting civil servants from wearing ostentatious religious symbols and limiting time off for religious reasons.”
We have printed the entirety of Ms. Laframboise’s article below.
Dissent continues to grow for Bill 60
Jamais deux sans trois — never two without three
Quebec Bureau Chief
MONTREAL (CUP) — Concordia University is the third and last English university in Quebec to publicly denounce the charter of secularism proposed by the Parti Québécois.
The university released a detailed statement on Wednesday (Dec. 18), outlining why the institution could not support the PQ’s proposed legislation that aims to separate church and state. It states that current circumstances, recruitment and retention, and the autonomy of the university is at stake should Bill 60 pass into law.
“Universities and their employees are not government agents,” reads the statement. “The freedom to teach, to carry out research, and indeed to criticize the state are fundamental elements of that autonomy.”
Quebec has only three English universities: McGill University and Concordia located in Montreal, and Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke. McGill was the first post-secondary institution to criticize the provincial government’s plan in late September while Bishop’s passed a resolution in October condemning the charter.
Concordia wants the PQ to radically amend its legislation taking issue with “certain key elements” which includes prohibiting civil servants — such as professors and administration — from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols and limiting time off for religious reasons.
“The prohibition against visible religious symbols would affect our more than 7,000 full- and part-time employees,” reads the statement. “Many of whom are also students at the university and who depend on their employment as research and teaching assistants to help pay for their educations.”
The university believes it is too diverse for the charter not to be divisive — Bill 60 puts the future Concordia has at risk.
The statement comes after months of deliberation by the university bodies including calls for input from students, professors and staff of the community to submit directly to the university’s president, Alan Shepard. It is the largest English post-secondary institution in Quebec with enrolment surpassing 40,000 students.
However, the statement is a joint announcement from the Board of Governors, Senate and various associations within the university including the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). Both student associations denounced the move months ago and have been present at anti-charter rallies in the downtown core of Montreal.
James Tyler Vaccaro, vice-president clubs and internal affairs of the CSU, agreed with the process initiated by Concordia.
“Dr. Shepard did a great job of asking for input from the different parts of the Concordia community,” said Vaccaro. “The stance developed with the Senate and the Board of Governors speaks to the deeply ingrained values that make up Concordia.”
The PQ is accepted submissions on Bill 60 from citizens of Quebec and public bodies until Friday, Dec. 20, to be considered before the National Assembly in January, yet the response since early December has been overwhelmingly negative.
Bill 60 seeks to amend the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms by outlining a framework for reasonable accommodations on religious grounds. The PQ also wants to prohibit civil servants from wearing religious garb — such as niqabs, turbans and hijab — while working. The charter is meant to promote secularism in Quebec yet has created a division amongst citizens since September.
A slew of CÉGEPs and universities publicly said they could not support Bill 60 including the Université de Sherbrooke, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal — traditionally a PQ stronghold. Hospitals, unions and school boards in Montreal have also criticized the proposed legislation. Criticism has also come from outside of Quebec, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the official opposition Thomas Mulcair, Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau and Green party leader Elizabeth May.
The dissent has even reached individuals who share a fundamental belief with the PQ: a sovereign Quebec. Former Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani, who now sits as an Independent in the House of Commons due to her disagreement with the charter, publicly announced on Wednesday (Dec. 18) that she no longer supports the sovereignty movement.
“The flagship of sovereignty is nothing like it was before,” wrote Mourani in an open letter. “There are still a few independentist leaders who advocate an inclusive vision of the Quebec identity, but they are clearly on the fringe.”
Mourani went so far as to imply that the PQ has not only lost sight of protecting Quebecers but that Canada protects Quebec’s distinct identity better than the provincial government does.