Quebec bishops meet with committee on education

.- The Quebec bishops met Wednesday with Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier and a parliamentary committee to discuss a bill, which would replace Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in public schools with a religious culture and ethics program by 2008. The bishops were one of about 20 groups that presented before the committee. The bishops' statement was under embargo and should be released shortly.

The hearings were held in Quebec City May 31 to June 2.

The education minister had introduced the new bill May 4. The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops had expressed its disappointment with the bill.

The bishops had submitted a document to the minister in October, urging him to maintain confessional instruction in public schools and to renew the notwithstanding clause for another five years.

The clause is necessary since a Constitutional Amendment in 1997 revoked Quebecers' right to confessional public education.

But the new bill only extends the clause for three years, enough time to create the new religious culture and ethics program.

Private faith-based schools would also be required to adopt the new program. They could, however, offer confessional instruction as an extra course.

The minister's press attache said the government expects to pass Bill 95 by June 20.

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