(Quebec) Quebec “does not intend” to ban quiet rooms where students pray in CEGEPs and universities, says the office of Minister of Higher Education Pascale Déry. Regarding the directive that should ban them in public secondary schools, the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, says it is still being drafted.

For the last session of parliamentary work before the long Easter weekend on Thursday, the question of rooms dedicated to prayers and meditation in schools has once again generated debates in Parliament.

Before question period, the Minister responsible for Secularism, Jean-François Roberge, affirmed that the position of the government is that “our public schools are secular” and that we cannot, in this context, “have in our schools with rooms reserved for prayer where we will separate the students according to their religion”. On Wednesday, Mr. Drainville went a step further, promising that his directive would simply prohibit the establishment of rooms reserved for prayer.

Earlier this week, Cogeco Nouvelles reported that high schools in Laval, among others, had set up quiet rooms in classrooms, while groups of students prayed in inappropriate places, such as in stairwells or in the parking lot. The Minister of Education has since invited them to pray in silence and has promised to ban this kind of development.

Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said it is “hard to believe” that there is not these days “concerted action to change what was a common understanding in Quebec that a school is not a place of worship”.

Without giving any details, the PQ leader affirmed that the multiplication of requests in certain secondary schools in order to open rooms where to pray at noon hour “also coincides with telephone calls that we received, which were not not altogether agreeable, on such matters.”

What were those calls saying? Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon refused to answer. “I won’t go any further just yet. I’m going to ask for everyone’s consent and make sure before I disclose, but the thing is, that, too, exists. In such a context, it is hard to believe that this is not a concerted action,” he said.

“I don’t think you can qualify [these calls] as threats. I think we are talking about a form of pressure tactics. You have to see all the facts that are really simultaneous to see that there seems to be a desire to reintroduce religion in our schools, ”added the leader of the PQ.

In press briefings on Thursday, the interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), Marc Tanguay, as well as the parliamentary leader of Quebec solidaire (QS), Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, explained why their political parties had supported the motion. filed Wednesday by the Parti Québécois, which stated that “the establishment of places of prayer, regardless of confession, on the premises of a public school goes against the principle of secularism”.

Mr. Tanguay said he is “against having a chapel, be it a chapel, a synagogue or a mosque, in a public institution”. However, the cases reported since Monday mention premises transformed into multi-confessional places of prayer.

“It is important that the Minister [Bernard Drainville] and his department put in writing clear and complete directives for decision-makers throughout Quebec. […] Beyond what the minister can tell you in scrum with both hands in his pockets, he must put it in writing,” replied Mr. Tanguay, who said he saw clearly. good eye the development of rooms of meditation accessible to atheists as well as to students of all religious denominations.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, for his part, said Thursday that he expects the directive, which must be sent by Mr. Drainville, “to respect common sense”.

“Places of worship inside schools, there is no one who agrees with that in Quebec. But meditation rooms, meditation rooms where people can engage in different activities, whether they have a religion or not, it already exists in several public institutions […] and it does not cause problems anywhere” , he said.

In addition, the parliamentary leader of QS recalled that the deputies, at the start of each session in the Blue Room, have a moment of meditation. This tradition dates back to December 15, 1976, when the Speaker of the House at the time, MP Clément Richard, ended the prayer “out of respect for the members of this Assembly, who are not all of the same denomination. nun”.