(Ottawa, Canada – 16/11/2004) – The Canadian Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR-CAN) today called on the Quebec Human Rights Commission to
issue a ruling on the right of Muslim students to wear a hijab, or Islamic
headscarf, in Quebec’s private schools citing a 1995 precedent when the
commission decided against forcing non-Muslim teachers to wear the hijab in
a Montreal Muslim private school.
The call by CAIR-CAN came after the commission recently declined to rule on
the case of Irene Waseem who was prevented from wearing her hijab by
College Charlemagne, a private school in Pierrefonds, Quebec. Ms. Waseem
and the school reached a private settlement.
In 1994, the commission also reserved comment in the similar case of Dania
Bali and her private school, Regina Assumpta.
In February 1995, however, the commission decided that a requirement
imposed by a private Montreal Muslim school that all female teachers,
including non-Muslims, wear the hijab as a condition of employment was
discriminatory and contravened human rights legislation. No complaints
were filed with the commission in that case.
In a statement issued today, CAIR-CAN wrote:
“While we fully respect Ms. Waseem’s decision to reach a private settlement
with College Charlemagne on this issue, we believe the Quebec Human Rights
Commission must be fair and consistent in addressing issues that affect the
“The situation faced by Ms. Waseem is, without doubt, one that affects
other Quebec Muslims and their constitutionally guaranteed right to
practice the requirements of their faith.
“With its precedent ruling in 1995, and its role as the watchdog of human
rights in Quebec, the commission has the duty to clarify this issue without
delay and prevent any further misunderstanding or miscarriage of the law.”
CAIR-CAN’s op-ed on the history of the hijab issue in Quebec entitled, “Why
does a head scarf have us tied up in knots?” may be viewed at
www.caircan.ca in the op-ed portfolio.
CONTACT: Abdurahman Salman at 613-254-9704; Cell: 613-795-2012