Muslims in Manitoba request exemption from physical education classes

News Agencies – February 5, 2011

A dozen Muslim families who recently arrived in Canada have told Winnipeg’s Louis Riel School Division that they want their children excused from compulsory elementary school music and co-ed physical education programs for religious and cultural reasons. “This is one of our realities in Manitoba now, as a result of immigration,” said superintendent Terry Borys. “We were faced with some families who were really adamant about this. Music was not part of the cultural reality.”
The families accept physical education, as long as the boys and girls have separate classes, but do not want their children exposed to singing or the playing musical instruments, Borys said. The division has suggested they could instead do a writing project to satisfy the music requirements of the arts curriculum.
However, a local Muslim leader says there is no reason for young kids to be held out of music or phys-ed classes based on religious and cultural grounds.
Borys said that there had been one or two requests for kids to be excused previously, but this year a dozen families came forward at six schools. Borys said that school division contacted a member of the Islamic community whom the parents suggested, consulted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and looked at what other jurisdictions are doing about accommodation, particularly Ontario.