Joanne McGarry of the Catholic Civil Rights League believes the move is an attempt by the provincial government to remove religion at all levels of public life.

League supports Quebec parents opposing religious ban in day care

  • June 6, 2011

OTTAWA - Quebec’s ban on God, prayers, songs to Jesus and religious instruction in subsidized day cares discriminates against religious believers, says the Catholic Civil Rights League.

The League has expressed support for Jewish and Catholic parents who are appealing to the Quebec Superior Court on grounds the ban violates the constitution by infringing on religious freedom.

“Quebec is leaning toward suppression and discrimination against believers of any religion,” said Jean Morse-Chevrier, the Quebec director for the League and chair of the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec.

The ban is similar to Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC), she said.  

“In effect, in the name of respect for diversity, the government is abolishing true diversity more and more in educational programs.”

The ban, which was announced last December, went into effect June 1. It gives broad discretionary power to nursery inspectors to determine which practices are religious and banned, and which are cultural and permitted, according to the League. An estimated one in 20 of the province’s subsidized day cares is run by religious denominations. Those offering religious instruction or activities must phase it out or risk having their provincial subsidy suspended, reduced or cancelled altogether.

“Parents who want some religious content in day care or nursery school pay the taxes that make Quebec’s child care subsidy possible,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry. “To us, this is yet another attempt by the provincial government to remove religion at all levels of public life. Requiring parents who want religious content to pay private rates puts them at a significant disadvantage.

Morse-Chevrier noted parents pay a great deal to have religious content in pre-school programs.

“There is not only the cost of unsubsidized care for their children, but also the cost of any protest. Quebec parents already have a similar situation in schools, where only private institutions are able to offer denominational instruction in addition to the ERC course.”

Catholic day cares run by religious sisters will no longer be allowed to sing songs to Jesus, pray to Him or even say grace together before meals. Though a manger scene or a Christmas tree might be allowed for cultural reasons at Christmas time, the story of Jesus’ birth could not be explained. Jewish-run day cares will not be allowed to teach about Passover or Old Testament stories such as Noah’s Ark if God is mentioned.

The ERC program that stresses the same secularist and relativistic approach to religion and diversity is the subject of two court cases. The Supreme Court of Canada recently heard arguments on the case of Roman Catholic parents in Drummondville who want their children exempted from the compulsory program that starts in elementary school. About 1,700 families in Quebec have also requested exemptions. The other case involves Loyola High School, a private Catholic high school in Montreal. Last June, it won the right to exempt students from the ERC course and offer a Catholic program about other religions instead. The Province of Quebec has appealed the decision.

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