Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday July 12, 2019
Legault backs Education Minister’s comment, says Malala Yousafzai ‘couldn’t teach’ in Quebec with head scarf
Quebec Premier François Legault says Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and renowned advocate for girls’ education, would not be allowed to teach in his province unless she removed her head scarf, saying his Education Minister did not make a mistake when he made that assertion.
Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s Education Minister, faced a barrage of criticism over the weekend that made headlines as far as Britain and the Middle East, after tweeting a picture of himself with Ms. Yousafzai after they met in France, saying that they discussed education and international development.
Mr. Roberge was asked in a Twitter exchange with a journalist named Salim Nadim Valji whether Ms. Yousafzai, who wears an Islamic head scarf, could teach in his province, which has banned religious symbols in the public sector. Mr. Roberge said it would be an honour for Quebec to have Ms. Yousafzai teach, but that in Quebec, “as in France … as well as in other open and tolerant countries, teachers can’t wear religious signs while performing their duties.”
Quebec’s legislature adopted Bill 21 last month, which bans public sector workers – whether they are teachers, judges or police officers – from being able to work if they wear a religious symbol, such as a turban, a head scarf, or a kippa. The Canadian Human Rights Commission said months before the bill became law that it targets people for their religious beliefs and would limit people’s opportunities to participate in society.
Ms. Yousafzai was born in the Swat region of Pakistan, where she became an advocate for girls’ education. She was shot in the head by the Taliban at the age of 15 while she was on the bus home from school. She survived the attack and, in 2014, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in supporting young girls’ right to education.
The activist, now 21, runs the Malala Fund, which raises money to help girls around the world access education. Since 2018, she has been studying philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford.
Mr. Roberge’s response prompted outrage on social media. Liberal MP Omar Alghabra tweeted that, “No government should ever tell a woman how to dress.”
Speaking with reporters in Quebec on Monday, Mr. Legault was asked whether Mr. Roberge made a mistake and the Quebec Premier made it clear that he does not believe he did. (Globe & Mail)