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Quebec's biggest French school board postpones applying religious symbols law

People attend a demonstration to protest against the Quebec government's Bill 21 in Montreal, Monday, June 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Quebec’s largest school board has voted to delay application of Quebec’s controversial new secularism law for at least a year to allow for consultations with parents, unions and other stakeholders.

However the Quebec government has said the law passed Sunday banning religious symbols for teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority takes effect immediately.

In a motion passed Wednesday, the Commission scolaire de Montreal outlines plans for consultations with governing boards, parents’ committees, unions and various associations to determine what changes need to be made to board policies.

Catherine Harel-Bourdon, the board chair and an outspoken critic of the new law, says the board will also need to train hundreds of managers to enforce the law and to avoid having it applied unevenly in different schools.

Teachers and principals hired after March 28 — the date the bill was tabled — are prohibited from wearing religious symbols on the job.

A spokesman for the English Montreal School Board noted that before the bill was even tabled the board voted not to implement the planned restrictions on religious symbols. He said the board will likely discuss the matter at a meeting next week.

The Canadian Press