Only one full-time teacher at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School wears a hijab.
But more than 500 students followed teacher Rawan Moudarres and her blue hijab out of PCHS Friday to protest against Bill 21, the Legault government’s proposed secularism law.
Moudarres, who was born and raised in Montreal, was moved by the show of support. “It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “I’m shaking inside.”
Some students wore hijabs and kippahs in symbolic defiance of Bill 21, which would bar public authority figures, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.
Moudarres said the thrust of Bill 21 has left her shaken, questioning her place in a province she calls home. Her parents left war-torn Lebanon in the 1970s and moved to Canada, where they raised their family.
“I grew up in the West Island, in Pierrefonds,” she said. “I’m a very westernized woman. I’m not different from anyone.”
Moudarres said she chooses to wear a hijab, although her mother doesn’t. Neither does her daughter. They are free to choose, she said.
Moudarres taught in Ontario for a spell before returning to Quebec a few years ago. “I needed to come back here because it was home. I am very hurt by my home province for deciding that I am now a second-class citizen.”
Although Bill 21 contains a grandfather clause that would exempt currently employed teachers from losing their jobs, Moudarres wonders what the future holds for her daughter.
“When you think about the future, do you want your kids to grow up in a closed-minded society and not have the same opportunities as everyone else?
Victoria Deslauriers, a Grade 11 student at PCHS, wore a hijab to the protest even though she is not a Muslim. She wanted to support Moudarres, her French teacher.
Deslauriers,17, also carried a sign that read:
We are all affected
— All religions
— All races
— All genders
Deslauriers said Bill 21 would discourage young Muslims and others from pursuing careers as teachers and police officers.
School principal Colleen Galley said she was proud of the students for calling out the CAQ on a draconian law.
“It’s indicative of how the community, the teachers, staff and Lester B. Pearson School Board have raised our kids. It’s not divisiveness, it’s inclusion. We stand united,” Galley said
“It’s also been a really great learning experience for the kids because it’s their democratic right to protest or not to protest. And that’s one of the teachable moments that comes out of demonstrations like this.”
Has Bill 21 politicized young millennials, now protesting like students of the 1960s?
“It truly has,” Galley said. “I think they’re very impacted because this is a generation of difference-makers who have a voice and are gobsmacked, for lack of a better word, that this (law) is a possibility in 2019.”
Galley wore a small crucifix necklace around her neck. For the protest?
“I always wear it,” she said.