Unlike Victoria, which adopted a “secular” system of educational administration in the 19th century, Quebec is still navigating the divide, this article is from a government official explaining why the Government is not going to subsidize day care centers who enforce religious identity on children … NOTE TO THE GOOD PEOPLE OF QUEBEC: Just do what Victoria does, and give the toddlers an opt out. Any parent who does not want day care workers to lead children in prayers can ask the day care worker to put their child in a separate room. That is the solution we have in Victoria … works great!
MONTREAL – I would like to set the record straight concerning the government directive on religious instruction in subsidized childcare services.
The Gazette’s June 2 editorial (“Quebec gives new meaning to the term ‘nanny state’”) says that children would no longer be allowed to sing Au clair de la lune. On June 8, an Opinion article (“God protect us from radical secularists”) says that the words “Christmas” and “Passover” would be banished. It also charges that the directive is extreme and that the approach is reminiscent of that adopted by jihadists.
Such an interpretation in no way reflects the letter or the spirit of the directive.
Tolerance, inclusion and respect for individual freedoms are the key principles that have guided us in the elaboration of the directive.
The government has chosen to no longer allow the learning of a specific religion in subsidized daycare centres. However, there is a difference between emphasizing the cultural aspects of Christmas and recreating the nativity scene with children. There is a difference between singing Au clair de la lune and reciting prayers on a regular basis with a group of children. There is also a clear difference between a child who initiates a gesture and a child who repeats a prayer initiated by a person in a position of authority.
That is the line that is being drawn. No religion is singled out.
We respect individuals. Our intention is not, nor has it ever been, to prevent children from being themselves. Our directive is the result of a thoughtful, transparent and inclusive process.
When the subsidized daycare program was created in 1997, religion was not addressed by the Parti Québécois. In 2010, given the numerous questions raised publicly, it was the government’s responsibility to elaborate guidelines to clarify the situation regarding religion in daycare services.
After announcing our intention to no longer allow religious learning in subsidized daycares, the Ministry of Families and Seniors established an advisory committee. Members of this committee included representatives of religious childcare services, as well as a specialist on religious matters.
Our work with the committee allowed us to better understand childcare services that offer religious learning. We were also able to better anticipate some of the challenges of the application of a directive.
In December 2010, I announced the directive on religious learning in childcare services. To give childcare services sufficient time to adapt their educational and activity programs, the application of the directive was delayed until June 1. This transition period was also favourable for older children leaving daycare services to attend school.
The government has chosen to adopt this directive and we take full responsibility for it. The transmission of faith is a responsibility that parents, not government-subsidized childcare services, must assume. Consequently, we have chosen not to prevent non-subsidized childcare services from offering religious childcare services.
It is never easy to strike a balance when addressing issues regarding religion. I understand that these are important issues that must be approached with the utmost sensitivity. I believe that we have done so with respect and tolerance.
The time had come to determine whether or not the government should subsidize religious learning in childcare services.
This year, we are investing $2 billion in tax revenue in the subsidized daycare network. We have drawn the line: while we celebrate and are proud of our diversity, the government will no longer subsidize childcare centres that engage in religious teaching. Our position is clear.
Yolande James is MNA for Nelligan and Quebec’s minister of families.