Ex-Hasidic couple take Quebec to court over religious school education

MONTREAL — A trial is underway that pits the Quebec Education Department against a former Hasidic Jewish couple who allege the government failed to ensure they received an adequate education.

A lawyer representing Yochonon Lowen and Clara Wasserstein told a Montreal courtroom today the couple received almost no secular education while attending a private religious school run by the ultra-orthodox Tash community in Boisbriand, north of Montreal.

The couple are not seeking damages but want a declaratory judgment against the province and the Boisbriand Hasidic schools declaring they have violated the Quebec Education Act.

A youth protection worker told the court today that an educational assessment of 320 boys in the community launched in 2014 found that 280 lacked skills such as reading and writing in English or French and doing basic math.

Marie-Josee Bernier said the situation improved markedly after the families entered into an agreement with the school board, but that the students’ educational level remained below those of their peers as of 2017.

Lawyers for the province and the Jewish community have acknowledged there were past problems with the students’ education but say those problems have been addressed.

They say a 2017 bill that tightened school attendance rules and agreements that have allowed Hasidic families to register as home-schoolers with various local school boards have worked to ensure children are being taught the Quebec curriculum.

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