dimanche 26 avril 2009

Parents protest ethics and religion course

Extracts from the Gazette dispatch on the protest march organized yesterday against the new compulsory state course on ethics and religious culture.

“We’re asking the (Jean) Charest government to lift the obligatory part,” Richard Décarie, spokesman for rally organizers, the 100,000-member Coalition pour la liberté en éducation.

The coalition maintains that the course infringes on parents’ rights.


Angry parents say the course is often contrary to their own beliefs.

“We are getting calls from parents saying that teachers are teaching whatever,” Décarie said. “Their children are confused, especially in primary school. And parents are feeling helpless.”

For example, a Catholic child told his parents that he wants his family to become Hindu because then they could have “seven lives” and that would save his dying grandfather.

“He had learned in the course that Hindus have seven lives and he wanted six more for his grandfather,” Décarie said. “Imagine the total confusion in the child’s head and the parents stuck with that dilemma.”

Quebec enacted the course following the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodations related to cultural differences.

[In fact, the course was already planned for general teaching in 2008 before the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. Eight schools — in a secretive way according to some — were already teaching the course in 2007.]

But the teachers themselves were not properly trained in the new course material, Décarie said.

For Saturday’s march, the coalition had organized the transportation of protesters from various Quebec regions by school buses.

It’s no coincidence that rally organizers had convened the march in Drummondville.

A local couple launched a court challenge against the provincial Education Department’s course in September.

They are asking a Quebec Superior Court justice to rule that making the course mandatory is unconstitutional. The couple argue the compulsory course takes away parents’ free choice.

The case is to be heard in Drummondville on May 15, Décarie said.

[Incorrect, the 11, 12 and 13 of May with a probable extension on the 15th of May]

Loyola High School in Montreal has also initiated legal action after the Education Department refused a request to exempt the private boys school from teaching the course.

[Well, and was denied the possibility of adapting the ERC course to its status as a private Catholic High school.]

According to a Léger Marketing poll held last fall, two thirds of parents, or 72 per cent, believe in choice for their children’s education.

In the 25 to 34 age bracket, the poll found support for choice was 80 per cent.

These figures suggest strong opposition, said coalition president Marie-José Croteau.

“So don’t impose something that goes against parental conviction. Religion is a very sensitive area which is why it’s protected in the Charter of Rights,” she said. “It’s our children, we want to have our say.”

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