A grade three teacher in Quebec, Canada, was removed from the classroom because she wears a hijab. Stock photo via Getty
A grade 3 teacher in Quebec was removed from the classroom because she wears a hijab—prompting the province’s premier to say she shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.Earlier this month, the Western Quebec School Board confirmed that Fatemeh Anvari, a teacher at Chelsea Elementary School, was removed from her post because of Quebec’s Bill 21. The law prohibits public servants—lawyers, teachers, police officers, and more—from wearing religious symbols, and applies to anyone hired after March 2019.
The bill has disproportionately harmed Muslim women, for whom teaching is a popular career in Quebec. The board had asked Anvari last month if it was a religious or cultural symbol, Anvari told CTV News. “I said it’s more identity and it’s sort of a resistance and resilience, because it’s empowering for me to wear it. But regardless of that, I was told, you know, regardless of this it still counts as a religious symbol.”Anvari was hired as a permanent teacher in Chelsea, Quebec—a municipality about 26 minutes north of Ottawa by car—in October after working as a substitute with the school board since March. She’s since been reassigned to work with students on a literacy project about diversity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Monday no one should lose their job because of their religion, but he doesn’t want to start a fight with the province.It’s important “to ensure that it is Quebecers themselves who deeply disagree with the fact that someone can lose their job because of their religion,” Trudeau said. Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Anvari’s experience proves “everything that is wrong” with Bill 21.
And yet, Quebec politicians reiterated their support for the bill, with Quebec Premier François Legault saying she shouldn’t have been hired at all.“The school board should not have hired this person in the first place as a teacher, given Bill 21,” Legault said Friday. “And I want to remind everybody that Bill 21 became a law in June 2019. It was voted democratically by the National Assembly. I think it’s a reasonable law, a balanced law.”Another Quebec politician went so far as to accuse Anvari of “trying to make a statement.” “The reason this teacher doesn’t have a job is because she didn’t respect the law. The law is for everyone. She tried to make a statement wearing a hijab,” said Pascal Bérubé, the Parti Québécois’s critic on secularism.Hundreds of people in the province plan to rally in support of Anvari on Tuesday outside of MNA Robert Bussière’s office in Gatineau, Quebec.English school boards in Quebec have gone to court to get an exemption from Bill 21, which was granted in April. But the provincial government challenged the ruling, so now the school boards have to wait for the appeal.Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.