Anglophones in Quebec believe eliminating English-language school boards puts minority language rights at risk, according to a new survey by Léger Marketing.
The five-part survey found 84 per cent of anglophones and 39 per cent of francophones worry that English rights in the province will be diminished if school boards cease to exist.
The survey was commissioned by the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA), Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation (CEDEC) and Association for Canadian Studies (ACS).
QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers said he wasn’t surprised by any of the numbers in the poll.
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“The community is very committed to the idea of having control and management of its institutions and school boards are a really important example of that,” he told Global News.
“It’s really clear the community doesn’t want to see its schools run by a foreign, unsympathetic agency and wants to take control of them and continue to run them itself.”
The poll found 82 per cent of anglophone Quebecers say English-language school boards are important to them.
On the contrary, just 28 per cent of francophones agreed that English school boards are important to them.
When it comes to the government’s intention to eliminate English-language boards, 55 per cent of Quebecers surveyed said they disapproved of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)’s plan.
A total of 77 per cent of anglophones say they are against abolishing the school boards, with 18 per cent saying they would agree with the decision.
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Meanwhile, 48 per cent of French speakers said they disagreed, with 44 per cent saying they support the government.
As for whether school boards should be elected by the public, the majority of English speakers (70 per cent) and French speakers (55 per cent) said residents should have a say in who governs the boards.
Respondents answered similarly when asked if English-language school boards should remain independent from the government of Quebec.
Among anglophones, 72 per cent agreed; however, with francophones, that number fell to 30 per cent.
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“The community has to mange its institutions and that means we elect the commissioners and those commissioners are responsible to us, not to the minister of education, to deliver a good product. They do now produce a good product,” Chambers argued.
“People don’t see that the system is failing in such a way that its governance has to be radically thrown out.”
The poll sampled 1,937 Quebecers: 1,019 English speakers, 773 francophones and 144 people whose first language is neither English nor French.
The survey was conducted via web panel between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4 and has a margin of error of 2.5, 19 times out of 20.
No word from the CAQ
Despite talk of possible education reform on Wednesday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge refused to comment on the possibility of keeping English school boards. Premier François Legault said no decision has been made yet.
“I think we are an open government. We’ve listened to the anglophone community and we’re trying to find a compromise,” Legault said. “We’ll come back to you in the next few weeks.”
Nevertheless, Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to the premier for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, insisted the government is taking the concerns of the province’s English-language communities seriously.
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“Access to English education is a right so nobody’s talking about touching that,” he told Global News on Monday.
“Control of English institutions is a right so nobody’s talking about touching that. I think what’s really important is that we see ourselves as Quebecers.”
The Quebec government is expected to table a bill on school board reform in the fall.