Prayer in Schools Drainville confirms ban with government decree

Prayer in Schools | Drainville confirms ban with government decree

Secretary of Education Bernard Drainville formally ordered all school service centers to ban the setting up of prayer rooms in the classroom. In the directive passed by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, the minister affirmed that “no place” in a school may be used for prayer.

Posted 7:27pm Updated 8:24pm


“In order to preserve the secular character of the public schools, I am therefore issuing a directive today on religious practice in our schools, our vocational training centers and our public adult education centres. Schools are places of learning, not places of worship,” affirmed Mr. Drainville in a statement released at the end of the day.

Clearly, Quebec orders service centers and other facilities to ensure “that no location is actually or appears to be used for religious practices such as manifest prayer or other similar practices.”

At the beginning of April, Cogeco Nouvelles reported for the first time that high schools in Laval, among other places, had set up quiet rooms in classrooms while groups of students pray in unsuitable places, such as stairwells or parking lots.

Then 98.5 FM also cited the testimony of an employee at the School of International Education, who claimed that a teacher improvised as an imam and that girls were denied access to the premises. Minister Drainville then said that a room dedicated to prayer should, above all else, be accessible to all students, regardless of their faith or gender, before they change their minds.

Lively debates took place in the National Assembly in the days that followed. In particular, the parliamentarians accepted a motion from the PQ. In particular, the text of this application stated that “the establishment of non-denominational places of worship in the premises of a public school violates the principle of secularity”.

“Incompatible” with religious neutrality

Specifically, Mr. Drainville’s directive states that “the development of places used for purposes of religious practice in a school, vocational training center or public adult education center is inconsistent with the principle of the religious neutrality of the state.”

“According to the principle of freedom of conscience, a student has the right to be protected from any direct or indirect pressure aimed at embarrassing him or influencing him to conform to a religious practice,” the minister also affirmed, recalling this , that a representative of the state “shall not, in the exercise of his functions, favor one or more religions, for example by overseeing or otherwise assisting the organization of religious practices”.

Ultimately, “the development of places used for religious worship is likely to have implications for the proper functioning of schools, vocational training centers and adult education centers,” notes Mr. Drainville.

If this policy is not followed, it is up to the management of the school service center to “take the necessary means to ensure that the facility managers take the appropriate corrective action,” concludes the Minister of Education.

Beyond the school network, Quebec “does not intend” to ban the meditation rooms where students can pray in CEGEPs and universities, the office of Minister of Higher Education Pascale Dery had said.

“The problem persists,” the PQ worries

At the Parti Québécois (PQ) on Wednesday, MP Pascal Bérubé welcomed the minister’s decision but demanded that the directive apply to all establishments. “That was the decision that had to be made. Having said that, I still wonder why CEGEPs and private schools are not subject to Bill 21. These practices continue in these schools, the problem remains,” he argued.

“The CAQ has such strong prejudices against private schools that it shields them from any provision for the common good in terms of secularism,” continued Mr. Bérubé, calling on Quebec to “reopen Law 21 to add CEGEPs and private schools. “Right now it creates a distortion,” said the chosen one.

At Québec solidaire (QS), education critic Ruba Ghazal lamented that Minister Drainville “took two weeks to write a policy that lacks clarity and doesn’t seem applicable.” “We’re going to create more problems than anything else: do teachers have to monitor the corridors and the playgrounds in case a student gathers? Why not just ban spaces reserved exclusively for prayer and allow healing spaces open to all if desired and space available? ‘ she insisted.

Meanwhile, the office of interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), Marc Tanguay, indicated in the evening that it would “take the time to analyze the directive before commenting on it”.

With Hugo Pilon-Larose, La Presse