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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

For Ms. Fatemeh

Fatemeh Anvari was not trying to make a statement.

She was just being herself. A professional, kind, and caring teacher, who cared deeply about her students.

When Chelsea Elementary told her that she would no longer be able to teach her Grade 3 class because she was wearing a hijab, she said she was “shocked.” We all were. But honestly, how surprising could this really be to Canadians? We all knew just how discriminatory Bill 21 was when it was tabled by the CAQ government in March 2019 and we all knew just how it would affect teachers, parents, and students at the local level.

The fact that politicians are just now standing up after Anvari’s rug has been pulled from beneath her feet, is disgraceful. Where was this passionate challenge when the law was being debated? Comments from leaders on Bill 21 during the federal election – including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who himself wears a religious symbol – were empty, weak, and overall disappointing.

If this had happened in any other province than Quebec – someone losing their job over what they wear to work – it would be a clear human rights violation. It would go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The fact that Quebec had to invoke its notwithstanding clause to move the bill forward tells you just how problematic it is.

When Pascal Bérubé, the Parti Québécois’s critic on secularism said, on Dec. 9, that Anvari “tried to make a statement wearing a hijab,” he was more than just incorrect; he was putting out false facts at best and baiting the public with an inflammatory accusation at worst. The Low Down even received a call from CTV Montreal reporter Selena Ross who asked if Ms. Fatemeh started wearing the hijab after she was hired, as some politicians suggested. We told her that was completely false. Anvari was recruited by Chelsea Elementary and they hired her knowing full well that she wore a hijab. She told the Low Down she has always worn it; it’s not a religious symbol to her, it is “part of my identity.”

Anvari may have become the unsuspecting hero in all of this, but this certainly was not her intention. All she wanted to do was teach kids. While we can all sit here and fume over this unjust law that clearly targets Muslim women (among other minorities), we must reflect on what we are losing in our communities.

In Anvari’s case, we are losing a beautiful example of what we should all want in our classrooms. Anvari has become the role model we want for our children. She gracefully took the high road through this terrible ordeal, stuck to her values, and showed the school and the school board what diversity and inclusion really look like.

Aren’t these the exact qualities we want to rub off on our kids? The fact that Anvari has decided to stay on in a “diversity and inclusion” literacy role – despite being excluded herself – speaks volumes about just how much she cares about Chelsea, its students, and education in general.

Contact your MP, write a letter to Premier François Legault, and our MNA Robert Bussière (see contact information on page 6).

We need to rally around Ms. Fatemah. Because she is one of us, and boy, are we proud of her.


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