Hundreds of people, including students and parents, joined a protest in Canada Tuesday to support a teacher who was removed from the classroom because she wore a hijab. Fatemeh Anvari, who taught third grade at a school in Chelsea, western Quebec, was reassigned to a role outside the classroom because her head covering violated a controversial law that bans provincial government employees in position of authority, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols, the Guardian reports. Quebec's Bill 21 also bans crucifixes and the turbans worn by Sikhs, but critics say it was clearly designed to discriminate against the province's growing Muslim population.
Anvari was removed from the classroom just a month after starting work at the school. Under the law, people who were hired before March 2019 are allowed to continue wearing religious symbols. Parent Emily Dyer tells the CBC that while many people were already against the law, it "really hits home" now that it has affected a member of the community. "It's real people who are in the untenable situation of having to choose between practising their religion, continuing to have their identity and being able to maintain a job. That is untenable." The law passed in June 2019 and has faced multiple court challenges.
The case has received widespread attention across Canada, but Quebec officials seem unlikely to budge. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Friday that Anvari should never have been hired in the first place. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that while he doesn't want to set up a showdown with the Quebec government, the federal government hasn't ruled out intervening, CTV reports. "I always said very clearly I deeply disagree with Bill 21," Trudeau said. "I don’t find that in a free and open society that someone should lose their job because of their religion." (Read more Quebec stories.)