• Trevor Greenway

Firing teachers, hiring parents

It seems awfully strange that Quebec is now begging parents to help teach in schools when they just removed a perfectly qualified teacher from her Grade 3 classroom simply because of what she wears on her head.


Readers are likely familiar with Fatemeh Anvari’s story — the Chelsea teacher who was removed from class for wearing a hijab. Since the Low Down broke the story late last year, schools across Quebec have been faced with massive shortages as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads. The province has since come out asking parents, retirees and others with free time to step up and cover for sick teachers.


According to a Quebec contingency plan guide that was sent in early 2022, all schools in the province must implement a plan that utilizes parents and former retired teachers to help out in the classroom in case of a health emergency. With Omicron’s pervasive grip on the province – over 6,000 daily infections and a total of 812,419 active cases – that “health emergency” is now.


Chelsea parent Amy Pitkethly has already applied to help out. Pitkethly was the main organizer in the protest against Bill 21 following Anvari’s removal from class and she agrees that, “she should be teaching the class, not me.” Pitkethly is a real-estate agent, not a teacher.


And what’s more is that parents, supervisors and retired teachers who are hired to help with the shortage are exempt from Bill 21 and therefore are permitted to wear hijabs, kippahs, crosses and turbans.


It gets even more absurd.


Under these provisions, if Ms. Anvari were to retire from her teaching career, she would technically be permitted to return to her Grade 3 class as a substitute while wearing her hijab.


Schedule 3 of Bill 21 directly states that the provisions only apply to, “principals, vice principals and teachers” in schools. Since parents and retirees are not teachers, the bill does not apply to them.


This is a common misconception several letter writers and reporters have gotten wrong and it’s a key fact that really changes the context of some pro-laïcité arguments.


Several writers have reported that Ms. Fatemeh was removed from her class and placed into an administrative role with the school. That’s not correct. Ironically, Anvari was shifted into a diversity and inclusion role within the school. She will still be teaching in front of students. She will still be wearing a hijab. She just won’t be a full-time classroom teacher.


Support for Bill 21 seems to have dipped in the province. A survey carried out by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies earlier this month found 55 per cent of Quebecers support the bill compared to 64 per cent previously. That’s an 11 per cent drop since the Low Down broke this story in early December.


If support continues to dip below the majority mark, will the ruling CAQ party repeal the bill? They should, but they probably won’t and we will be left with untrained individuals to teach our kids, while qualified teachers like Ms. Anvari sit on the sidelines.