'I was ashamed to call myself a Quebecer,' said teacher protesting Bill 21
Published Saturday, September 28, 2019 5:32PM EDT Last Updated Sunday, September 29, 2019 12:04PM EDT
Around 300 demonstrators came out in the rain Saturday voicing their outrage at Quebec's Bill 21 prohibiting teachers, police and others in authority from holding public office if they wear religious symbols.
Teachers, fearing they won't have a place in Quebec society because of the CAQ law, organized the demonstration in front of Parc metro station on Jean-Talon St.
"We have seen some parents objecting to people who are wearing religious symbols to teach their children," said organizer Ehab Lotayef. "We are hearing about actions inside the schools themselves where the teachers are facing questioning by the students themselves. That atmosphere that this law is bringing is really dangerous."
Aya Salah teaches at a private school and wears a headscarf. Though the bill doesn't directly affect her, she said it limits her options should she want to seek work elsewhere in the future.
"I'm a Canadian, and I'm proud of the values in the Canadian Charter, and one of these values is freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the equality of all members of society," she said. "It doesn't have to affect me directly for me to feel that I have to do something because it's affecting other people. I shouldn't wait until something is personally impacting me to take a stand. It's about the value and the principle of the thing."
Salah, who came to Quebec from Palestine when she was a baby, did not think the law would actually pass when it was first proposed and was shocked when it became law in June.
"I thought it was a joke," she said. "I was attending other protests and demonstrations before, but I didn't think it was going to get passed and when it did, I was shocked. I was ashamed to call myself a Quebecer in essence because it goes against everything I believe in."
Quebec Community Groups Network President Geoffrey Chambers said his organization will join one of the four existing legal challeges to the bill.