Quebec policy takes religion out of daycare

  • January 6, 2011
QuebecOTTAWA - A new Quebec policy that prohibits religious instruction, prayer, singing or ritual in state-funded daycares is imposing the state’s ideological approach to religion on religious education, warns a Catholic parents’ group.

Catholic-run daycares will no longer be allowed to have “specific Catholic teachings, which in itself is a great deprivation to the children,” said Jean Morse-Chevrier, chair of the Association of the Catholic Parents of Quebec (APCQ).

Children who believe in Jesus love to say prayers or sing songs to Jesus, she said. “They won’t be allowed to do that. They can’t say grace together.”

“Children spend a lot of time in daycare, but they can’t sing little Christmas songs. At Easter they can’t talk about Jesus rising from the dead, nothing, even if the parents want that,” she said.

The provincial directive, released just before Christmas, was devastating news to the Salesian Sisters who run three Montreal daycares. Other religious groups have also expressed dismay.

“With this new directive, we cannot even say a prayer; we cannot even mention the name of God”, said Sr. Ethel Rousselle, who manages the Centre de la petite enfance (CPE).  “For us it is cutting our wings completely.”  

Rousselle said that children find the best part of the day the religious activities they share. “They love that,” she said. “We will take away something important for them.”

Banning any form of religious instruction, prayer, singing or ritual in state-funded Catholic, Jewish and Muslim daycares only tells part of the story of the new directive, said Morse-Chevrier.

The directive also requires that Quebec children learn about “living together,” the exact same words found in the controversial Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course that has been imposed on all  Quebec schools, said Morse-Chevrier.

The ERC is the subject of two religious freedom challenges wending their way through the courts.

The directive says daycares must take into account the multi-ethnic character of Quebec and stimulate curiosity towards others and respect for differences using an inclusive approach, she pointed out.

It goes beyond banning traditional religious instruction in daycares to “imposing another approach to religion,” she said. “These children are under five. You are already creating a mindset in these children that all religions are equal.”

The directive seems to be “trying to take control of the child’s religious development” by “creating an attitude in the child towards religion,” she said.

“We say it is totalitarian to undermine the parents’ choice of religion and impose a particular religious attitude,” Morse-Chevrier said.

She said the parents are very concerned. They will be working with the APCQ and a Jewish organization to see if they can persuade the government to change its policy.

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