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Not very secular to renew the permit of a Jewish school, point out QS and the PQ

Photo: Adil Boukind Le Devoir «Le Devoir» rapportait mercredi que le ministre Drainville a renouvelé jusqu’en 2025 le permis de l’école juive ultraorthodoxe Belz, et ce, malgré un avis défavorable de ses propres conseillers.

The Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire pointed out on Wednesday to the Minister of Education and father of the Charter of Quebec Values, Bernard Drainville, that it is not very secular to renew the permit of the ultraorthodox Jewish school Belz and finance this institution, which is struggling to comply with the educational regime.

“It goes against all notions of secularism. We cannot be consistent with Law 21 [on the secularism of the State] and not ask ourselves questions about the fact that we are financing schools where the educational project is essentially on religious bases,” he said. Salon bleu PQ MP Pascal Bérubé. “A private religious school does not follow the rules, but Bernard Drainville renews his license. For a government that says it defends secularism, this is inexplicable! We must stop funding private schools,” solidarity MP Ruba Ghazal also wrote on the social network

The two elected officials were reacting to an article from Devoir, which reported on Wednesday that Minister Drainville renewed the permit of the ultraorthodox Jewish school Belz until 2025, despite an unfavorable opinion from his own advisors. The school in the Montreal district of Outremont notably flouted health measures during the pandemic, and it does not respect the educational regime, according to the Consultative Commission on Private Education (CCEP).

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At the Salon Bleu, Minister Drainville clarified that in addition to this first unfavorable opinion, the school had received a second one — still unfavorable — from the private education department of the ministry. “But subsequently, the school in question provided us with information which reassured us on a certain number of issues, in particular respect for the educational framework. So, the decision, at that time, [it was] to respect the positive recommendation [of the ministry],” he clarified.

The minister pledged to “monitor the situation, to support the school”. He added that the Belz school’s permit had been renewed “for two years, whereas usually it’s four or five years.” In fact, as the CCEP specifies in its report, the previous permit renewal at the Belz school, in 2022, was for a duration of only one year, since “many gaps remain”.

The end of public funding ?

Mr. Bérubé reminded Minister Drainville that he had written in a plea for secularism in 2018 that “religion must be in the private domain.” “Will the Minister of Education commit, as we wish, to putting an end to public funding of religious schools in Quebec ?” asked the MP. In the press scrum, Mr. Drainville undertook to provide journalists with the amount of public subsidies that the Belz school receives.

Like Mr. Bérubé and Ms. Ghazal, solidarity MP Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said he had difficulty understanding Minister Drainville's decision. “For a government that defends secularism, it’s difficult to explain. We have said it often: we must stop funding private religious schools,” he declared. At the Liberal Party of Quebec, before question period, MP Monsef Derraji invited Minister Drainville to explain his decision.

The Belz school is part of a group of five establishments which concluded an agreement in 2009 with former Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne. These schools had until the start of the 2012-2013 school year to comply with the ministry's requirements. In an exchange with Le Devoir on Wednesday, the former liberal elected official underlined the complexity of this type of issue. “My understanding is that there were improvements and then relaxation. It’s an eternal beginning again. We need to ensure very regular follow-ups and provide reminders,” she explained. Above all, “we must ensure that the educational regime is respected. It’s fundamental,” insisted Ms. Courchesne.

With Alexandre Robillard

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116