Open Letter: College Citoyen

(French Version)

We are the parents of six Muslim girls who attend College Citoyen, a middle school in the City of Laval, Quebec. 

We hope that this joint letter from all of us will help you understand the traumatic and frustrating incident that all our families went through in recent days.  

Our daughter wear the hijab (Muslim headscarf) and Until to Sept 5th, they could wear their hijabs at College Citoyen, no problem.  

But in a humiliating turn, several Vice Principals of the College met our daughters the day after (Sept. 6th) and told them that they are not allowed to wear their hijabs.  

The Vice Principals’ message was clear: take off your hijabs or get expelled. This was a shocking humiliation for our six girls—one in Sec 1, one in Sec 2, two in Sec 3, and two in Sec 4. 

They were given until September 11th to decide: choose your religion or your education. No exceptions.  

This kind of Islamophobic intimidation against children is not just illegal, it is also against our fundamental protected rights as Canadians—the right to worship freely as enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

Our girls have remained strong and steadfast in the face of this systemic Islamophobia by figures of high authority at College Citoyen.  

They refused to take off their hijabs or leave their school. They refused to pick between the false binary presented to them. They asserted their rights as Canadians.  

The community has also stepped up to stand with us. A petition of over 6,000 signatures was obtained to help our cause.  

This has caused the Principal of College Citoyen, Ms. Stephens, to backtrack and say that our girls were never asked to take off their hijabs or leave. That the whole thing was a misunderstanding.  

This is false. We hope to set the record straight with this joint letter.  

Ms. Stephens and her Vice Principals have been spreading a false narrative to the media and beyond. They are saying that our girls were never asked to pick between their hijabs and their education.  

Ms. Stephens also says that our girls have always been allowed to wear the hijab so long as they filled out an accommodation request form. She says that this was the policy all along and has been for years.  

However, we were never given any accommodation request form. That was never ever mentioned to us until way after the ordeal occurred.  

This false narrative and continued gaslighting has extended and exacerbated the psychological distress that our young daughters are suffering.  

We simply ask for College Citoyen and its leaders for a commonsense response to this situation: apologize for what happened, clarify that the hijab is allowed as part of the school uniform, stop intimidating our kids along these lines and ensure that there is an accommodating and safe environment for all students.  

Such a response would be in line with Canadian and Quebec values that accommodate the diversity that characterizes our country.  

There should be no room for Islamophobic bullying and intimidation in any school—least of all from the adults in the room.  

We hope that this letter will set the facts straight. We hope that it will help bring about the correct response to this unfortunate situation.  

We continue to hope that this is still possible.