Muslim Council of Montreal responds to ban on religious instruction to toddlers in Quebec

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The National Post – December 17, 2010

After eliminating denominational education from schools, the Quebec government announced plans to extend its ban on religious instruction to toddlers. The new policy will make it illegal for workers in the province’s network of subsidized daycares to teach their charges, aged five and under, about a specific religion. Teaching religious songs, including many Christmas carols, will be off limits, as will crafts with a religious connotation. Government inspectors will enforce the rules beginning next June.

The initiative was sparked by media reports last spring that some subsidized daycares in the province were offering Muslim and Jewish programs to toddlers.
Under a system created in 1997, parents pay just $7 a day to send their children to state-subsidized daycare. The government covers the balance, approximately $40 a day. There are currently about 2,000 subsidized daycares in the province offering spaces for more than 120,000 children. Ms. James said a tiny minority of those facilities — about 100 — currently offer some degree of religious instruction.

The Muslim Council of Montreal said it hopes to mount a legal challenge to the new policy. “We view it as explicit discrimination against the rights of religious communities to educate their children in the values and principles they hold dear,” said Salam Elmenyawi, the council’s president.

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