At the end of the school year, when a teacher retires they generally reflect on the past but Carlyle Elementary School teacher Hanifya Scott can’t help but think about what’s going to happen to her students in the future.

Scott wears a hijab and when Bill 21, Quebec’s secularism law that prohibits certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols, was introduced there was a discussion in her classroom about it means for Quebecers like Scott.

It made for a retirement assembly that included hard lessons on the last day of school about Bill 21.

Scott said she wonders what impact the law will have on her students.

“What view are they going to have if they’re not exposed to any and everything that’s in this world? that’s not education,” she said Thursday.

Students at the Mount Royal school like Raveen Singh, who wears a turban and wants to be a teacher, said he struggled to understand the reasoning for such a law that critics say disproportionately targets racial and religious minorities.

“Everyone is different and you shouldn’t judge people just because they’re different from you,” said Yehuda Knopf, a Grade 3 student.

With Scott retiring, the school’s principal is worried about finding her replacement.

“We will not be able to hire a teacher of the caliber of Ms. Scott,” said Dina Vourdousis. “To say it’s a shame is an understatement.”

The school board says it’s continuing its legal challenge against Bill 21 and is currently waiting for a ruling from Quebec’s Court of Appeal.

CTV News reached out to the education ministry for comment about the legal challenges to Bill 21, but did not receive a response before publication time.

So far, as English Montreal School Board (EMSB) officials are concerned, they say they plan on taking those challenges to the highest court in the land.

“If we lose, which I think is highly unlikely, we would take a serious look at the decision and go to the Supreme Court, absolutely,” said Joe Ortona, the EMSB chairman.

And Scott is leaving with his own message to students.

“The children have to be exposed to everything so that they can make their own choice. It’s not always what your parents tell you to do or the government tells you to do,” she said. “You have a mind of your own.”

She just hopes that after 22 years of teaching, that will be the lesson her students take to heart.


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