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Quebec Anglo community ready to fight to keep school boards

QCGN ready to fight government to preserve school boards
Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, discusses Premier François Legault's plan to abolish school boards in favour of service centres.

Members of Quebec’s English-speaking community say they are ready to challenge the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s plan to abolish school boards and replace them with service centres.

“We have a constitutional right to our educational institutions and the control and management of those educational institutions,” said Quebec Community Groups Network president Geoffrey Chambers.

It’s a battle the group is willing to take all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Of course, we are very much hoping not to have to go through that arduous process, but we will insist on having our rights respected,” he said.

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

Chambers made the comments after Premier François Legault said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette on Thursday that his government would go ahead with the controversial reforms and that once the changes were in place, the English-speaking community would find it hadn’t lost anything.

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Chambers begged to differ.

“We don’t understand how he could possibly take that position,” he said. “It makes no sense. School boards have legal authority, they have taxation rights, they come from the community.”

The CAQ government has also hinted the reforms would include getting rid of school board elections.

READ MORE: Quebec Liberals say education minister ‘doesn’t have a clue’ about English school system

Chambers argued that elections are an integral part of the democratic process and fears that government-appointed boards wouldn’t prioritize community needs.

“A different boss gives you different orders and gives you a different system,” he said.

QESBA meets with Quebec education minister

However, there are signs the Legault government may be wavering. On Friday afternoon, the Quebec English School Board Association met with Quebec’s education minister.

“I think there was a little more of an openness during the discussion today,” QESBA president Dan Lamoureux told Global News. “I’m not so sure they are as strict on that [abolishing school boards].
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“They’ve taken our notes and they’re going to reflect on that, and maybe at the next time we meet it will be further.”

READ MORE: Quebec education minister stands firm on abolishing school boards, open to meeting with Anglo groups

He added: “I’m leaving here much more positive than when I came.”

Lamoureux said the QESBA will be meeting with the minister again in the new year.