March 23, 2017

Religious accommodation available to all faiths, reflects Peel board commitment to inclusion

​"The future of this country is in making all feel safe and included," says board chair

At the Regular Meeting of the Board on March 22, 2017, Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald issued the following statement regarding religious accommodation:

"In recent weeks, we have seen a concerted effort to share deliberate misinformation to counter a known legal requirement for Peel—like every public and Catholic board—to provide religious accommodation for all faiths. That is not acceptable. We take our legal obligations seriously, as we do our board commitment to inclusion. Board trustees and staff have invested significant time listening to the issues raised and responding to public questions and concerns. That cannot continue.

We will not devote an inordinate amount of staff or board time to an issue that is not our core focus as an organization—our focus is teaching and learning. As a board, we have said we will no longer hear delegations, nor accept public questions on this provincial requirement. We need to focus on the business of the board. We have produced a fact sheet that is available tonight that addresses the questions we are repeatedly asked. From this point on, our Key Facts stands as our response. Staff will use this sheet in response—and nothing else—in responding to questions and concerns, including those asked on social media.

We are also appalled as a board by the anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice we have seen on social media, read in emails, and heard first-hand at our board meetings. It has caused some of our students to feel unsafe, to feel targeted. We must not allow hatred toward any faith group to flourish. We will not stand for that. It is not consistent with our board values, with our role as trustees, or for us as Canadians.

I know there are some who do understand the issue and remain concerned. I would ask that you have confidence in our school leaders and staff to know what is right for students. The future of this country is in making all feel safe and included—we do that work every day. Religious accommodation is part of that work.

Those of you unhappy with this answer, can certainly contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament or the Ontario Human Rights Commission."

Yesterday, the Peel board launched a direct, clear set of Key Facts on religious accommodation to respond to misinformation and errors that have been shared in the community and on social media. The fact sheet can be found at www.peelschools.org/aboutus/equity. It will be translated into the top 10 languages spoken by Peel families and these will be available next week.

Notes McDougald, "We appreciate the endorsement of our work from Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau. Together, we share an unwavering commitment to ensure everyone feels safe, welcome and respected in our schools and in every school across the province."


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Media contact: Janet McDougald, Chair of the Board, 905-278-1402, janet.mcdougald@peelsb.com

Reference: Brian Woodland, Director of Communications and Community Relations, 905-890-1010 ext. 2812, brian.woodland@peelsb.com  

                        

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