June 11, 2019 10:51 am
Updated: June 11, 2019 6:09 pm

‘C’est triste, mais voilà’ Quebec education minister states as 3 EMSB schools to be given to French board

WATCH: Reaction from the English community was swift on Tuesday after Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge announced the transfer of schools from the EMSB to the French system. As Global's Anne Leclair explains, some English-rights groups say the Anglo community has been ignored.

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The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) says it is “appalled” at the lack of consideration and respect by Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, who announced Tuesday on 98.5 FM., a French-language radio station, that the transfer of three English-language schools will begin Tuesday.

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READ MORE: Montreal parents frustrated over planned shift of 3 English-language schools

“This is a very sad day for Quebec’s English-speaking minority community. The government has decided that our voices don’t matter and that our students don’t matter,” said QESBA President Dan Lamoureux.

“It is our estimation that the government of Quebec is penalizing its minority community…This is a sad day in our history.”

The minister said though he triggered the decree Tuesday, he will remain open to any last-minute proposals to avoid the forced transfer.

“C’est triste, mais voilà (it’s sad, but there you go),” Roberge told reporters in Quebec City.

“We had a lot of discussions with the parents directly, with the community, and so, I still believe we have a good relationship with the anglophone community.”

READ MORE: Quebec education minister ‘strongly condemns’ EMSB decision to move Galileo Adult Education Centre

The deadline for the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) to propose ways to save three of its English schools — Gerald McShane Elementary School, General Vanier Elementary School and John Paul I Junior High School — was midnight on June 10.

WATCH BELOW: EMSB must transfer 3 schools to French board

“We waited a certain time hoping that it will be settled between the two school boards, but unfortunately it’s not so,” said Quebec Premier François Legault.

“We have to take action because we have children who need a place to study.”

With its dwindling enrollment numbers, the EMSB was tasked with figuring out a space-sharing arrangement with the overcrowded French-language Pointe-de-l’île School Board (CSPI).

If the boards did not come to a decision, Roberge threatened to simply hand the three schools over to the French board.

READ MORE: Parents, students form human chains around English schools set to be given to French school board

“We don’t know and it’s kind of sucks for the kids, I have to be honest. I don’t get how we’re just throwing out these kids on the streets without having any alternatives,” said Rocco Gallo, whose daughter goes to Gerald Mcshane Elementary.

“It was actually a really great school. We loved the staff, we loved their program and we’re very disappointing to hear they couldn’t get something done, something worked out.”

The EMSB said it disagrees with Roberge’s decision to use section 477.1.1 of the Education Act to “accelerate the transfer” of three of its schools.

READ MORE: Montreal students, parents hold rally in east end to save EMSB schools

“I’m extremely disappointed in the education minister for having made this announcement in the media,” said Angela Mancini, EMSB chairperson.

“We have a community out there with parents that are extremely worried about their students, their children, who have to leave. I am very disappointed in the way he [the minister] is acting.”

WATCH BELOW: Parents desperate for answers over the transfer of English schools

The biggest insult, says Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) President Geoffrey Chambers, is that Roberge did not speak directly to those affected by his decision.

“He [the minister] is doing something injurious to the English-speaking community and he should come and talk to us and explain it and try to justify it instead of essentially talking to his constituency and ignoring us,” he told Global News.

“He doesn’t have the constitutional authority to go and grab assets from a minority-language school board and he’s got to be stopped.”

The EMSB had been pushing for a cohabitation model with its severely overcrowded French counterpart — something the CSPI has repeatedly rejected, saying it needs about 3,000 spots.

Roberge argued cohabitation was a short-term solution, but sharing buildings would impede new immigrants from learning French.

WATCH BELOW: EMSB parents shocked after learning of possible school transfers

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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