Former students consider legal action over Riverdale High School closure

Opposition to Riverdale High School transfer continues
WATCH: More than 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Quebec government reconsider its decision to transfer Riverdale High School to the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys. As Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, community leaders still hope they'll be able to show the province that the decision is not just about buildings but also about protecting minority language rights.

As their petition to save Riverdale High School continues to pick up steam, several former students are also considering taking their fight to court.

“You can just click on it and watch the numbers keep rolling on it,” said former student Amanda Lovelace. “We’re actually shocked.”

In a week, they have gathered just over 2,000 signatures.

READ MORE: Former students start petition to save Riverdale High School

While they have enlisted the help of their local MNA, Monseff Derraji, to take their petition to the National Assembly, Lovelace says they are willing to put forth a legal challenge.

“We’ve picked out a lawyer that we want to contact and if he’s not willing to, we’re not going to give up,” Lovelace explained. “We’re going to find another one.”

Last week, Riverdale High School students, parents and teachers woke up to the unexpected news they were losing their building.

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Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says the move is necessary because while Riverdale is undercapacity, the French-language Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board is overcrowded.

Watch below: CAQ explains why Riverdale High School building given to French board

CAQ explains why Riverdale High School building given to French board
CAQ explains why Riverdale High School building given to French board

He’s invoking an article in the Education Act which he says allows him to skip the consultation process.

Article 477.1 states that “the government may, if it considers that the public interest warrants it and to promote the efficient and effective management of school board buildings, order that the property, a building owned by a school board, is transferred to another school board for the establishment of an educational institution. This transfer takes effect on the date determined by the government.”

READ MORE: Riverdale High School building to be handed over to French school board

Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) president Geoffrey Chambers believes this article doesn’t give the minister the right to close the school without proper consultation.

“The minister’s rights to override the education act is really only supposed to apply where that process has failed, where either the school boards can’t agree or the parents are up in arms to a point where they can’t get to an agreement,” Chambers explained. “And we weren’t even close to that.”

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Lovelace said Roberge “found a loophole and he’s ran with it.”

“It’s not fair to the Anglophone community at all,” Lovelace said.

READ MORE: English schools in West Island will fill empty classrooms with French students

Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey believes the group has a case.

“You can’t sacrifice fairness to the need to have something done right away,” Grey explained.

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“It would seem to me at first glance, that not following the rules, not holding the hearings is almost an indication that the English speakers were not considered very seriously.”

Chambers says dialogue would help.

“That would be the first thing we’d ask,” he said. “Obviously we have some recourse we can go to after that, but it takes a long time, it’s expensive and very confrontational so we would prefer to start with that.”

Watch below: The CAQ is in the process of switching things up for Riverdale high school.

Riverdale goes French
Riverdale goes French

As for Lovelace, she says they are willing take their fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“We all went here and we want our kids to have the same opportunity,” she said. “I want my daughter to wear the horrible green uniform.”

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The school building is bound to be handed over to the Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board on July 1.