Members of McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) voted unanimously to condemn the Parti Québécois’s proposed Charter of Values last Thursday.
The bill, which aims to restrict public sector employees from wearing visible religious symbols, was tabled by Quebec’s National Assembly on Nov. 7 with modifications that would no longer allow universities and hospitals to request exemptions.
The BoG’s decision to condemn the bill follows a similar stance against the Charter taken by McGill Senate at an Oct. 20 meeting.
“Our plan is to send a message to all members of our community internally, who have concerns, and we want them to know they have the support of both the Senate and the Board regarding their own views on this charter,” Principal Suzanne Fortier said.
McGill will submit a brief detailing its stance to the Committee on Institutions of the Quebec National Assembly and will request to participate in the Jan. 14 public hearings regarding the bill. The committee is part of standard procedure taken when a bill is in the process of being ratified, and the public hearings will serve as a setting where the community can voice concerns over the bill.
Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney highlighted the BoG’s decision to also take a stance on the issue.
“I think it’s very important, when McGill goes forward to the National Assembly, to be able to say this is an unanimous decision by both of the governing bodies of our school,” Mooney said. “It will be important for making our case.”
One point of discussion was regarding full facial coverings, as several members said they were unclear as to whether the BoG’s resolution would take a stance on the Bill’s mandate for uncovered faces.
“It’s a succinct resolution covering a very complicated issue, and I think it enunciates what is important,” Member-at-Large Samuel Minzberg said. “We could go into discussions about the niqab, but it would be a long discussion, while this gives the central point of what we object to, and what we stand for.”
Fortier explained that Senate had not come to an agreement on whether face coverings would be addressed in the resolution, so they had left the wording simple in order to make a stronger overall point.
“Senate was unanimous on the complexity of this issue, [and decided against] getting into this issue, which would require another level of discussion [and] a lot more information, and would have delayed us,” Fortier said.
Bill 60 could directly or indirectly affect all 10,000 employees of McGill, including its 3,500 student employees, according to Fortier.
“[People] are affected otherwise because of their sense of an environment that is not as tolerant, welcoming, and respectful as they would like to live in,” she said. “We’ve seen on our campus many people who are not personally affected but still feel a great sense of discomfort with the Charter, because they feel it is infringing on some personal decisions that the state should not get into.”
Measures regarding sexual assault
Fortier also briefly addressed the administration’s response to student outcry regarding an alleged sexual assault by three McGill students of a former Concordia student.
“We are taking concrete steps to ensure we offer our community a safe and respectable environment, including revising and renewing applicable procedures,” Fortier said. “We take any allegations of that kind seriously, and of course will not tolerate any violence on campus to students, staff, or our visitors.”
Fortier added that while the case was ongoing, McGill will adhere to its previous decision not to take action against the three accused students.
“At the same time we believe and are bound by the presumption of innocence,” Fortier said. “So we will provide support to those affected while holding to the fundamental principles of our judicial system. We believe they are not mutually exclusive and will uphold both.”