Francophones shouldn’t lose their right to vote in school board elections, argue English-language advocates

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s education reform met with criticism from school boards, opposition parties' Quebec’s education reform met with criticism from school boards, opposition parties
WATCH: Quebec’s English and French school boards are calling the CAQ government’s proposed education reform a threat to democracy. As Global's Anne Leclair reports, opposition parties are also failing to see the positive in Bill 40 – Oct 2, 2019

English-language advocates say they’re grateful Quebec’s school board reform has made an exception for them to still hold democratic elections. However, they argue it’s unfair for the French system to lose their right to hold general elections.

READ MORE: EMSB announces legal action over transfer of schools to French board

“We’re looking to see whether or not those constitutional rights are maintained in this model, but we’re also saying that the loss of school democracy in Quebec is not good for Quebecers. It’s not good for Quebec in its entirety,” Quebec English School Boards Association (QEBSA) Executive Director Russell Copeman insisted.

“The notion of a compromise is, I think, inappropriate and we’re here today to say that we believe that school governance democracy is an important value for Quebec.”

Rather than holding general elections, Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge proposed that the board of directors for new service centres in the French system will instead be elected by the parent, professional and student representatives on the schools’ governing boards.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘This law must be fought’: Quebecers launch campaign against Bill 21

“Is it fair in Quebec to have a two-tier system here? That we have a system for the francophones and another for the anglophones? Since when is this fair in Quebec? I think Mr. Roberge and Mr. Legault are starting something very unfair here in Quebec,” argued Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy.

“Democracy should be available for everyone — for the anglophones and also for the francophones.”

Alain Fortier, president of Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec also denounced the “loss of school democracy for more than half of all Quebecers.”

“The French and English school boards are uniting to say all Quebecers deserve the same democratic right,” he argued, adding that there will be a loss of power in the province’s regions.

“Roberge’s reform doesn’t fix anything and we’re making sure that we’re calling it ‘Roberge’s reform’ to make him accountable for the chaos he will create if it goes on the way he wants it to go on.”

WATCH: CAQ won’t comment on school board reform

Click to play video: 'Fate of Quebec English school boards still up in the air' Fate of Quebec English school boards still up in the air
Fate of Quebec English school boards still up in the air – Sep 12, 2019

QESBA has expressed its disappointment over some aspects of the proposed school board reform, calling the model “a mistake.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘English rights will be protected’ — Quebec government insists it is listening to community concerns

The association is currently studying Bill 40, but Copeman said he hopes the the proposal goes through a consultation process rather than being rushed through the National Assembly by the government to become law.

“We’ve seen absolutely no demonstration that the new model will improve students success, so why undertake this huge sterile debate about structure, this massive reorganization, this disruption?” he said.

WATCH: Saving English-language school boards in Quebec

Click to play video: 'Saving English-language school boards in Quebec' Saving English-language school boards in Quebec
Saving English-language school boards in Quebec – May 22, 2019

Nevertheless, Christopher Skeete, the parliamentary assistant to the premier for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, insisted the exception was made to help anglophone Quebecers keep authority over their institutions — after Roberge noted the English community had argued hard to protect its minority language rights.

Story continues below advertisement

“The community will maintain control and they will benefit from a revamped governance and I think this is a solution going forward,” Skeete said.

Unanswered questions

The Parti Québécois (PQ) noted that though it is open to Bill 40, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about who is going to take care of the schools.

“There’s a lack of participation in school board democracy, this is a fact. We don’t deny that at all, but…the main reason why you decide to legislate is to make sure you increase the success of the students in school, which is not the case with this bill,” insisted PQ interim leader Pascal Bérubé.

READ MORE: Montreal school boards to implement Bill 21, Quebec’s religious neutrality law

“My main concern is how to make sure that the students can have more success in their studies. They [the government is] too optimistic about how many people are going to be involved in the life of their schools.”
Story continues below advertisement

The Liberals agree, stating Roberge doesn’t understand the “reality of parents,” nor was there any assurance that there would be more services for children.

“I don’t think he understands the reason we have school boards,” Rizqy noted.

“I think he had one idea and the only way to do it is to abolish the school boards and call all the shots now.”

WATCH BELOW: Anglophone Quebecers have lost faith in CAQ government

Click to play video: 'Anglophone Quebecers have lost faith in CAQ government' Anglophone Quebecers have lost faith in CAQ government
Anglophone Quebecers have lost faith in CAQ government – Sep 20, 2019

Roberge shot back that the members of the governing boards would only have to attend about 10 meetings a year and participants will get about $100 a meeting each.

“It won’t be a huge, huge, huge [commitment],”he insisted.
Story continues below advertisement

Why service centres?

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government announced its intention Tuesday to nix school boards across the province, replacing them with service centres in a move it considers to be “the end of school boards as we know it.”

Bill 40, which was tabled by Roberge, will essentially give more power to the ministry.

READ MORE: Majority of anglophone Quebecers say axing school boards puts minority language rights at risk — survey

“Right now, with our school boards, we have too much bureaucracy, too much petty politics at the expense of our children and too much money taken away from our schools,” Roberge argued.

WATCH BELOW: CSDM says at least three of its teachers have agreed to adhere to Bill 21

Click to play video: 'CSDM says at least three of its teachers have agreed to adhere to Bill 21' CSDM says at least three of its teachers have agreed to adhere to Bill 21
CSDM says at least three of its teachers have agreed to adhere to Bill 21 – Sep 18, 2019

The government explains the centres will be administered by a board of directors made up of parents, community members and staff.

Story continues below advertisement

Under the proposed legislation, school boards will cease to exist as of November 2020.

Sponsored content