Education Minister Jean-François Roberge reiterated the Coalition Avenir Québec‘s plan to abolish school boards in the province, but said Friday morning he was open to meeting with the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) to discuss the issue.
This comes after QESBA issued a statement Thursday afternoon expressing surprise over comments made earlier in the day by Roberge on French radio.
During an interview with Paul Arcand on 98.5 FM, the minister of education said he’d had “reassuring” discussions with the English-speaking community in connection with abolishing school boards.
“The QESBA recently hosted a large number of English-speaking educational stakeholders and community groups. Not one of these groups has been consulted nor are they in favour of abolishing school boards. We are dumbfounded that this minister would declare that we are collectively in favour of abolishing the only institutions that belong to our community,” said QESBA president Dan Lamoureux.
On Friday, Roberge clarified his position.
“I didn’t have a specific meeting since I became minister a few weeks ago, but I’ve had a few meetings with them in the last four years and a half,” he said. “We didn’t change our plans since then so I already did those consultations, but of course we will meet again and again. It’s not over.”
The CAQ government wants to do away with school boards, to replace them with service centres.
Provinces such as Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia underwent school board reforms, but the French minority boards were left intact.
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When pressed by reporters as to whether he would consider keeping following their lead, Roberge said no.
“It is not our project to do what they’ve done,” he said. “We think we can improve both systems, the anglophone system and the French. It is not a good idea to improve only the francophone system.”
As to arguments the move is unconstitutional, Roberge begged to differ.
“In the constitution it is written the anglophone minority has the right to receive their education in English and parents of the anglophone community have the right to control the anglophone education system,” he said. “They will keep this control and we will respect the constitution.”