.- A committee of Christian parents submitted a petition to the Quebec government, with more than 56,000 signatures, in favor of keeping Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in the province’s public schools. The petition was presented in the Quebec legislature on behalf of the committee March 24 by Mario Dumont, the leader of Action démocratique du Québec.
Quebec’s public schools have been fully secular since the passage of Bill-118 in 2000. However, the government invoked the Charter’s notwithstanding clause and granted parents the legal right to choose between Catholic and Protestant religious instruction and moral instruction for their children.
The clause expires June 30 and parents want the government to renew it for another five years.
However, the government-appointed Religious Affairs Committee has recommended that the government not renew the clause.
Rather, it has recommended that the Ministry of Education replace the current three-option system with a class for all students that would teach about world religions and encourage students to discern which religious tradition they prefer.
This course is clearly being imposed against the will of the parents, said committee president Jocelyne St-Cyr at a press conference March 23.
She pointed to statistics from Quebec’s Ministry of Education that show that 80 percent of parents choose Catholic and Protestant religious instruction for their children in elementary school and 60 percent choose it at the high school level.
The committee had a 75-minute meeting March 11 with Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier to present a brief and discuss their position. The minister told the parents that the government has not yet made a decision on whether or not to renew the clause.
Quebec’s Liberal government is expected to enter debate on the notwithstanding clause in May.
Petitions are still circulating. The committee pledged that it would forward these petitions to the National Assembly.