Quebec education minister says he needs to ‘reflect’ on Bill 86 hearings

Bill 86 hearings end
WATCH ABOVE: Quebec English school boards have been calling for the government to scrap Bill 86 since it was first introduced in the National Assembly. The hearings are coming to an end, but as Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, English speakers have no insight on whether the government will change its mind.

QUEBEC CITY – Quebec English school boards have been calling for the government to scrap Bill 86 after it was introduced in the National Assembly late last year, going as far as to say they are ready to challenge the legislation in court if it is passed.

Wednesday marked the last day of the National Assembly hearings on the bill.

READ MORE: Quebec education minister won’t say if he’ll abandon Bill 86

Groups in favour and opposed to school board reform are holding their breath while Education Minister Sébastien Proulx makes his decision.

Proulx said he needs time to reflect on weeks of hearings, dozens of witnesses and nearly 100 briefs.

The government’s plan to get rid of school board commissioners and scale back school board elections has outraged many in the English-speaking community.

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“Basically, it’s a hot potato for [the government]. They don’t know what to do,” said Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau.

READ MORE: Lester B. Pearson school board wants Bill 86 scrapped

“It’s a total mess and I can understand why all people representing school boards, students and teachers don’t know where the government is going,” said CAQ leader François Legault.

Members of several anglophone communities have testified over the last month, highlighting a higher graduation rate than in French schools and stressing that an overhaul of the governing structure would interfere with student learning.

“It’s vital to our success that the link between governing boards, parent committees and associations, such as [the English Parents’ Committee Association] EPCA, stay status quo,” said Rhonda Boucher, chair of the Association of Anglophones Parents, during the hearings.

READ MORE: QESBA ‘optimistic’ after Bill 86 hearings

However, the federation representing French and some English parent committees is pushing for the government to adopt the bill with minor modifications.

“It’s not just elections every four years, it’s what happens every day in our schools,” said Corinne Payne with the Fédération des comités de parents du Québec.

“If we make the decisions closer to our students, that can only help them in the long-run.”

“For the first time, parents will be able to actually get real decision-making power within a school board,” added Andrew Ross, an English Montreal School Board parent commissioner.

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