Religion is being taught in about 20 provincially subsidized daycare centres, but the practice will be stopped, Family Minister Tony Tomassi said yesterday.
“Religion will not have its place in daycare services subsidized by the Quebec government,” he told reporters.
On Tuesday, he said the values taught in daycare centres are the extension of values in the children’s homes, while denying that anyone under age 5 was receiving religious instruction.
After checking with his department, Tomassi acknowledged yesterday there are problems with subsidized daycares, like Beth Rivkah in Côte des Neiges, operated by the Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch community.
Some daycare centres dispensing religious instruction were first licensed when the Parti Québécois was in power before 2003, he said.
Beth Rivkah has been operating since the 1970s, said an employee who was not authorized to be quoted in the media.
“It isn’t illegal that a daycare centre could incorporate into its education program a place for religion,” Tomassi said, while defending the ban.
“We will sit down with them,” the minister added.
B’nai Brith Canada-Quebec Region, representing the Jewish community, said in a news release it is “concerned about the Quebec government’s apparent about-turn” and is consulting with other religious groups to determine a course of action.
The opposition PQ objects that Quebec’s public school system is non-denominational but religion appears to be slipping back through the public daycare network.
Nicolas Girard, the PQ daycare critic, said Tomassi had made a “flip-flop,” adding that the Liberal government has added more daycare places in religious daycares since coming to power in 2003.
Girard conceded that teaching religion in daycares is not illegal, but said it should be illegal. “I think there should be a change in the law.”