Following a meeting with Education Minister Jean-François Roberge last week, representatives of Quebec’s English-speaking community are cautiously optimistic they have the government’s ear ahead of its planned school board reform. “The minister gave us a good solid hour and listened carefully to the positions of the community, which were very well expressed,” said Quebec Community Groups Network president Geoffrey Chambers, who took part in the meeting.
QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers sat down with Global Montreal’s Dan Spector to discuss a recent meeting between APPELE-Québec, which is defending democratically elected school boards, and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, whose government has plan to abolish them.
A majority of English-speaking Quebecers believe schools boards play a key role in both the well-being of the education system and the protection of the community’s linguistic-minority rights. Commissioned by Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec (APPELE-Québec), the Léger Marketing poll was conducted between March 13-21, 2019.
QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers cites Supreme Court ruling to define English-speaking community coalition’s determination to fight CAQ plan to eliminate province’s school boards. “The court,” said Chambers, “… ruled that minority language communities have the right to control and manage the educational facilities in which their children are taught both to ensure and enable that their language and culture can flourish.”
L’accueil d’élèves francophones dans des écoles anglophones dépeuplées n’est pas une panacée à la surpopulation dans le réseau scolaire de langue française, prévient la plus grande commission scolaire du Québec.
Le déclin de la communauté anglophone a beau avoir libéré 2250 places dans des écoles de l’île de Montréal, ces locaux vides sont pour la plupart situés loin des écoles francophones qui débordent. « Les espaces disponibles dans les commissions scolaires anglophones ne sont pas comme un coup de baguette magique qui va tout régler », dit Catherine Harel Bourdon, présidente de la Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM).
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Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge reiterated Tuesday that there is “no room for interpretation” when it comes to the government’s plan to abolish school boards.
“I think our plan is pretty clear. We want to transform school boards into service centres for schools,” he said.
“We want to emphasize all the decisions that are being taken by the governing board of each school and we want to abolish the election for trustees. It’s pretty clear.”
Quebec’s education minister doubled down Tuesday on the CAQ’s plan to abolish school boards.
“We want to transform school boards into service centres,” said Jean-Francois Roberge, who assured the English-speaking community its rights will still be respected under the new system.
English-language advocacy groups, however, are not convinced of that and have plans to fight back.
The Quebec Community Groups Network is prepared to fight the CAQ’s plans to abolish school boards in favour of service centres.
In a press release, QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers said that the school boards have value well beyond education.
“They are vital to the very survival and identity of our English-speaking community,” he said.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, premier Francois Legault confirmed that he would be going ahead with the controversial plans.
“Once the nine anglophone centres will be in place, they will realize they lost nothing,” he told the Gazette. “So it’s a useless battle.”
Chambers reiterated the QCGN’s stance that it will challenge any CAQ decision in court.
Montreal – January 19, 2018 – The Quebec Community Groups Network is shocked that the Coalition Avenir Québec is resurrecting a much-maligned plan to abolish school boards. We are disappointed that the CAQ would display such little knowledge or understanding of Quebec’s English-speaking community and the vast importance we place on the control and management of our minority language schools.
“Our schools are cornerstone institutions of our community, not simply institutions that provide services in English,” commented QCGN President James Shea. “Yes, the purpose of schools is to provide the best possible educational experience for our students. But our English schools have the added responsibility of preserving and promoting the unique culture of our linguistic minority community.”
“The Government of Quebec cannot unilaterally decide how our community exercises management and control of our school system,” he added. Our community made its position abundantly clear, he noted, when we fought the current government’s Bill 86: An Act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and ensure parents’ presence within each school board’s decision-making body.
Dear Education Minister Sébastien Proulx,
On behalf of English-speaking Quebecers, the Board of Directors of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and our Education Working Group, I wish to express our sincere thanks to you and your officials on the new taxation regime that you have decided to implement to govern school board financing. The QCGN also extends its unequivocal public congratulations.
This area had long been one where vexing and well-recognized systemic inequities had been deeply entrenched, to the profound detriment of the English-speaking community and damaging to our community’s development as well as to our ability to fully contribute to Quebec’s future.
Countless parents who have a right to send their children to minority-language schools have long been deterred by an inequitable financial burden, the much higher school tax rates long differentiating most English and French boards off the Island of Montreal.
It is to the credit of your government that you have now taken this matter in hand and moved forward to eliminate this barrier. Your efforts will resolve an important policy priority for our community. While we have yet to complete our analysis of all of the details, we are pleased that this new approach provides a solution that will prove equitable.
It is an important principle entrenched in the Constitution, and expressed in decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence, that our school boards are a key structure and a fundamental building block of our communities. You have now carried out an exercise in basic fairness, taking this positive step toward ensuring that Quebec’s constitutional duty toward minority language educational right holders is more fully respected. From our standpoint, Bill 166 presents a practical way to resolve issues raised by the Supreme Court, with its Rose des vents v. British Columbia decision in 2015 which determined that right-holding parents cannot be discouraged from enrolling their children in minority-language schools because of comparative differences.
We now hope that the government continues to take measures to ensure that English- and French-language schools across Quebec are provided with high quality and equitable resources. This would enable our minority-language schools to provide an educational experience of similar quality to that offered by majority-language schools. Specific areas where improvements are required include: physical facilities; quality and breadth of instruction; access to specialists such as speech pathologists and autism professionals; availability and provision of extracurricular activities; and equitable treatment regarding travel times.
We appreciate that balancing the demands placed on government is challenging, and so believe it fair that on occasions when public praise is deeply merited –occasions such as this –that an appropriate level of attention, respect and recognition is given to the leadership and vision that has empowered such a positive step forward for our English-speaking community.
Simultaneously, we take this opportunity to offer to you and your colleagues our best possible wishes for the New Year.
QCGN Education Working Group
QCGN Education Working Group
1819 René-Lévesque W.
Montreal, Quebec H3H 2P5
Phone: 514-868 9044
Fax: 514-868 9049