Concordia defended its stance against Bill 60 on Thursday by once again restating its opposition to the controversial legislation adding that universities have always, and should now continue to, promote inclusion and open mindedness.
Concordia Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon and Roger Côté, vice-president of services at Concordia, represented the university and gave several reasons as to the reasoning behind Concordia’s decision.
“Respect for one another is important for us,” said Côté, “and one such respect is the respect of identity, the recognizing of difference, and the knowledge that such differences enrich us, not only for the individual who displays these differences, but for the greater majority who learns from them. If that dimension of difference wasn’t there, it would lessen the experience.”
They agreed to the need for secularism and restated Concordia’s commitment to that ideal.
The bill as it currently stands is too expansive and needs to be rethought, they said, adding that the Bill would drive away individuals wishing to live, work, and study in the province and on Concordia’s campuses.
“Universities are a place of ideas, a place of innovation. Students who contribute to this innovation are welcome [to Concordia] whatever their origins may be. We’re in competition for the best brains, the best researchers, the best students. … It’s important for Concordia, for Montreal, for Quebec, to attract [them],” said Benoit, highlighting the economic and social benefits outsiders who feel welcomed by Quebec offer to the province.
Brief statements by faculty and students were read out by Concordia’s representatives, hammering in the point that overt religious symbols have never impeded anybody’s access to education, nor their quality of the experience.
Bacon asked as to what kind of a message would be sent if the university started policing what its employees could or could not wear.
“We’re not comfortable with denying access of education because of the way people dress,” said Bacon.
The two men also pointed out that universities have typically enjoyed a measure of independence in such matters as institutions of higher learning, and that the bill threatened these traditional rights.
He said the bill would drive away recruitment of not only students, but faculty needlessly in a time where the best was needed and competition to woo these groups was at an all-time high.
“We’re in a very competitive market …We have to protect our ability to attract the best.”
The public consultations are expected to continue for several more weeks.