(Quebec) Bernard Drainville prohibits public schools in Quebec from setting up a prayer room on their premises. Students who wish to meditate can do so “silently”, he said.
The Minister of Education corrected the situation on Wednesday, when he told the Journal de Québec on Tuesday that a prayer room in a school should above all be accessible to students of all religious denominations.
“There are all kinds of ways to pray. I can’t ban prayer, [but] I ban prayer rooms in classrooms. Now, if someone wants to pray silently, that’s their basic right,” Mr. Drainville said before question period.
On Monday, Cogeco Nouvelles reported that two Laval high schools had set up quiet rooms in classrooms. The Center de services scolaire de Laval explained that groups of students were praying in inappropriate places, for lack of a room, such as in the stairwells or in the parking lot.
Mr. Drainville, who is the father of the Charter of Values of the PQ government of Pauline Marois, said Wednesday that he will send a directive to all school service centers that a prayer room cannot be set up in a classroom. . “My issue is the classrooms,” he said.
“Honestly, school is not a place of prayer. It’s not complicated ! added the minister.
However, during his press scrum, Bernard Drainville did not specify whether a school is authorized to set up such a room elsewhere in the establishment, such as in a gymnasium, for example. Asked about this, his cabinet finally clarified that the minister’s directive will target classrooms and all school premises.
Of note: Private schools and subsidized private schools that have chapels or places of worship are not affected by this new ban.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, PQ MP Pascal Bérubé for his part said that he feared a contagion effect through the school network if the Minister of Education does not immediately ban places of prayer. “School is not a place of worship. If we accept what is happening in Laval, it becomes case law. There will be demands elsewhere,” he said.
Asked if his political party wanted to ban prayers in schools, when the request comes from a student and not from a state employee, the PQ deputy replied that it is possible to pray alone.
“One can pray alone, one will not necessarily realize it. But an organized practice of prayer in a room supervised by the school is not necessary,” said Mr. Bérubé.
The Parti Québécois tabled a motion in the Blue Room which affirms that “the establishment of places of prayer, regardless of confession, on the premises of a public school goes against the principle of secularism”. MPs from all political parties supported her.
After its adoption, Québec solidaire (QS) clarified that the party “has no problem with meditation rooms” being set up in schools “if there are classrooms available and that these are accessible to all, regardless of faith or no faith”.