Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has launched a public consultation to determine what should replace the current religion curriculum.

‘Too much emphasis on religion,’ says minister

By  Philippe Vaillancourt, Catholic News Service
  • January 24, 2020

QUEBEC CITY -- Complaining that current courses place “too much emphasis on religion,” Quebec is set to eliminate its Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum, according to the province’s education minister.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has launched a public consultation to determine what should replace the current curriculum, which replaced religion courses in schools in 2008.

In a statement, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec said it questioned “that even before proceeding with consultations,” Roberge announced “his willingness to replace, in whole or in part, the notions of religious culture in the ethics and religious culture curriculum.”

The bishops said they welcomed the minister’s willingness to revise and enrich the content of the program, on the condition that “this will not be done to the detriment of the notions of religious culture.”

This revision process “is part of the government’s desire to offer students a modern citizenship education course based on respect for oneself and others,” Roberge said Jan. 10.

Citizens have until Feb. 21 to participate in an online consultation in order to “establish new themes that will enrich the curriculum and replace, in whole or in part, the notions of religious culture.” 

The suggested themes are: citizen participation, legal education, eco-citizenship, sexual education, self-knowledge, ethics, digital citizenship and the culture of societies. It’s only in the eighth and last theme, the one about the culture of societies, that the word “religion” is discreetly mentioned.

The new curriculum will be tested in some schools during the 2021-2022 school year, then will be implemented in all Quebec schools in September 2022.

However, many experts are calling this move a “bad idea.” Sociologist Martin Geoffroy, director of the Centre for Expertise and Training on Religious Fundamentalism, Political Ideologies and Radicalization, stressed that “scientific understanding of religion promotes tolerance.”

Jean-Pierre Proulx, a former journalist with the newspaper Le Devoir and former professor of education at the University of Montreal, attributes the upcoming consultation to “a strong anti-religious movement that has developed in Quebec.”

“Why is this happening? Because this (ethics and religion) course recognizes the relevance of religions in society,” said Proulx, among those who created the current curriculum.

Jean-Philippe Perreault, a professor at Laval University’s Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, said the teaching community has advocated for a revision of the Ethics and Religious Culture program.

“But to reduce the place of religious culture within the program, as Minister Roberge seems to want, is simply worrisome. It’s not because religious practice is low that it’s not a challenge to live together in societies like ours. There has to be a place for it in schools,” said Perreault, who prepares future teachers to teach the existing curriculum.

Marc Chevarie, president of an association that represents some 200 teachers who teach the Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum, said he was “shocked, perplexed and disappointed” by the government’s decision. He criticized the fact that the association was not consulted.

“Religious culture is an inescapable reality — unavoidable because, in the world, 80 per cent of humanity claims to have a religious tradition. Unavoidable also because if today’s society is not capable of entering into dialogue, including in the field of religion, what future does this society have?”

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