November 29, 2018 6:38 pm
Updated: November 29, 2018 7:39 pm

Quebec education minister says plan to abolish school boards will respect constitutional minority rights

WATCH: Premier François Legault has promised to eliminate school boards and respect anglophones – even though many of them are fighting to keep school boards open. As Raquel Fletcher reports, it was just one issue that came up during very heated exchanges during the CAQ government's first question period.

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Quebec’s education minister says he doesn’t think there will be a legal battle over school boards.

“We did our homework,” Jean-François Roberge said. “The law we will write will respect the rights of the anglophone community.”

The CAQ promises to abolish school boards, but the province’s anglophones say that would contravene minority language rights and the opposition was quick to point out the contradiction.

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READ MORE: François Legault stands firm on religious symbol ban, eliminating school boards in inaugural address

The National Assembly has been sitting for three days; a two-week mini session began Tuesday. The new government is facing criticism from the opposition for what it’s saying is a lack of coherence.

On Thursday, Speaker François Paradis gave a detailed explanation of the rules for the 67 MNA’s who’ve never sat in the National Assembly before. Opposition parties then got a chance to call out the government during their first question period.

Liberal MNA Marie Montpetit put a series of questions to Environment Minister MarieChantal Chassé about not meeting 2020 targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Is this the ‘audacity’ the premier talked about in his inaugural speech?” Montpetit asked.

Chassé replied that past governments left the province in a “lamentable situation.” She cited a new report from the environment ministry that found between 1990 and 2016, Quebec reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by only 9.1 per cent, far from the 2020 target of 20 per cent.

READ MORE: Quebec politicians debate whether the electric car is greener option

Minister Lionel Carmant, who is in charge of raising the legal age of marijuana, drew laughter when he repeated the same catch-phrase three times.

“Marijuana is legal, but not harmless,” he said.

What did not get laughs Thursday is the CAQ’s plan to abolish school boards.

“It’s a bad idea, always has been,” said Liberal MNA David Birnbaum.

It’s an issue that’s bound to end up before the courts, he said, because the English minority has a constitutional right to control its educational institutions.

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“I read the constitution and I didn’t see the words, ‘school board,'” Roberge said.

Roberge said his plan respects the constitution because it will replace school boards with service centres.

“Having been responsible for the English language school boards association for 10 years, I can tell you that’s not my understanding at all,” Birnbaum said in reply.

READ MORE: Premier calls for French schools in Quebec to follow English lead

During his inaugural speech, the premier promised to respect the rights of anglophones and collaborate with the community. The education minister said he has already met with community members and received positive feedback.

However, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) said it hasn’t met with the minister.

In a statement, QESBA president Dan Lamoureux said, “We are dumbfounded that this minister would declare that we are collectively in favour of abolishing the only institutions that belong to our community.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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