January 17, 2020

Arts and Science Students Call for Repeal of Law 21


The Arts and Science Federation of Associations, which represents more than 16,000 students at Concordia University, strongly opposes Quebec’s Law 21, titled “An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State.” ASFA stands in solidarity with the student associations who are organizing resistance to the law and proudly endorses the strike actions they are undertaking on January 17th and 20th, 2020. Law 21 will affect Concordia students directly, notably those studying Teaching English as a Second Language, Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and Art Education. All people in Québec will be affected by the hate, stereotypes, and misunderstanding it encourages in society.

Students are holding a rally today, January 17th 2020, starting at rue McTavish at Mcgill University then marching to the Ministry of Education (1200 blvd St-Laurent) before finally meeting up with students at UQÀM at place Emilie-Gamelin. For more information, visit: https://tinyurl.com/Jan17-AntiLaw21

The legislation prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job, including but not limited to elementary and high school teachers, police, judges, and prison guards. The law does not achieve its stated goals of guaranteeing religious neutrality: it disproportionately affects people in religious minority groups and acts as a disguised ban on people of particular faiths from employment in the public service. Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh students in education programs across Québec are being forced to make the impossible choice between leaving their degree programs that they’ve invested time, money, and their dreams into, moving out of Québec after graduation, or accept the state’s right to humiliate them by removing their hijabs, kippas and turbans.

Secularism is the separation of religion and state institutions. Law 21 does not make Québec a more secular state because it only polices individual religious expression. This is supposed to be protected by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of expression for all. Secularism is supposed to be about religious neutrality, not policing the religious expression of minority groups. A teacher wearing a hijab does not mean that they are using their state authority to promote their religion, but a government deciding that people of certain religious practices cannot be teachers does, in fact, violate secular principles. Law 21 is discriminatory, and the careers of real people are being ruined by the Legault government’s xenophobia and racism.

Protest actions against Law 21 are being organized by the Education Undergraduate Society of McGill, Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), the UQÀM Association des Étudiantes et Étudiants de la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation (ADEESE), and the UQÀM Association Facultaire Étudiante de Science Politique et Droit (AFESPED). Members of the ASFA executive will be attending todays demonstration along with members of the Concordia Teaching English as a Second Language Student Association (TESLSA) and the Early Childhood and Elementary Education Student Association (ECEESA).

ASFA, TESLSA, and ECEESA demand that the Government of Québec repeal Law 21 in its entirety, as soon as possible. We further call upon the Concordia administration and the Faculty of Arts and Science to take stronger positions and actions in support of their students impacted by this discriminatory law. We cannot stand idly by as the Government of Québec takes away the rights of students, women, and religious minorities.

Law 21 can be defeated, and student action is able to do it. Students who wish to fight back against Law 21 are invited to reach out to ASFA and join the growing numbers of Concordia students working together to protect our rights and dignity. ASFA has resources to support student associations as well as individual students in organizing protest or strike activities. Contact mobilization@asfa.ca to get involved!

In Solidarity,

Arts & Science Federation of Associations Executive

ECEESA - Early Childhood and Elementary Education Student Association