Orthodox Jewish group says its Quebec schools aren't breaking law by staying open

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MONTREAL — An ultra-Orthodox Jewish group says its schools aren't violating a Quebec government decree by staying open and it's accusing the education minister of using the Hasidic community as a scapegoat.

The Quebec government has ordered primary and secondary schools to remain closed and to provide distance learning until at least Jan. 11 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But the Jewish Hasidic Council of Quebec says its school calendar doesn't provide for a break in late December or early January and says if it closes schools, the council won't be able to meet the educational needs of children.

The organization says the government decree allows students who have difficultly adapting or learning to continue attending classes and says Hasidic students fall into those categories.

Hudy Herzog, general director of schools in the Belz community, says that if the law changes, the schools will close and says they're not asking for any special treatment.

Claudia Landry, spokesperson for Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge, says educational institutions that don't follow the regulations can be fined, adding that the rules apply to all schools in Quebec without exception.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press