QUEBEC – The Chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board told a parliamentary committee late Tuesday she fears English schools in this province may be forced to close.
Suanne Stein Day says Bill 14, the PQ’s language bill, is “completely unnecessary, unfounded, overbearingly bureaucratic, unfairly restrictive and detrimental to the growth and development of the constitutionally-guaranteed English school sector”.
“The biggest problem is that it threatens our population, our community,” she says.
Stein Day was in Quebec City to present her brief to the parliamentary committee in charge of studying Bill 14. She told MNAs recruiting students is already hard enough as it is. The school board loses 700 students a year. It’s estimated about 10-thousand English-eligible families have chosen to send their children to the French system. Tightening language laws, she says, isn’t going to help.
“We right now have a number of schools that are not full because of our shrinking population, we’ve chosen to keep some of those schools open, some of them are in ‘milieux défavorisés’, so the smaller classes turn out to be a benefit but if they get too small we won’t be able to keep those buildings running,” says Stein Day.
Stein Day also told the commission parents are so concerned, they’ve started a petition that has now taken a life of its own. Thirty-two thousand signatures have been collected in just two weeks.
“We’re just disturbed that they’re not looking at us as a partner in this development of Quebec,” adds LBPSB Commissioner Linton Garner. “We’re preparing young people to be proper citizens, to be fully participating, to live, immerse themselves in the culture and that’s not being properly recognized.”
Liberal MNA Geoffrey Kelley says many of the issues brought up by the school board aren’t actually in the bill. But he understands the frustration and promises his party will be forceful when it’s time to vote.
“Once the school dies in a community, the community dies.”
The hearings continue Wednesday. The Central Quebec School Board will argue in favour of keeping the exemption allowing military children to attend English school.