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Anglophone groups hold their own Bill 40 hearings in Montreal

Quebec’s English community hosts its own Bill 40 hearings

The Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-Language Education in Quebec (APPELE-Québec) hosted its own hearing on the government’s proposed school board reform, Bill 40.

The group felt that since so many members of the English community were left out of the official hearings, it was only fair to give the groups a platform to air their concerns.

“There have been lot of voices raised, so we need a ‘temps d’arrêt’, we need a time to slow down and look at the legislation,” said Geoffrey Kelley, the president of the alliance.

READ MORE: More consultations into Bill 40 are needed: Commission Scholaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île

One group whose voice wasn’t heard at the National Assembly is the black community. For them, scrapping school boards is a major blow.

“We’d lose the ability of the school boards to make the resources more easily available to the black community,” said Clarence Bayne, president of the Black Community Resource Centre.

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Last week, the government held seven days of parliamentary hearings over Bill 40.

The bill proposes scrapping school boards and replacing them with service centres.

Quebec education reform hearings kick off
Quebec education reform hearings kick off

The Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) presented its concerns during the Quebec city hearings but is hoping to continue the conversation.

“What we are saying differently today is ‘listen, hit the brakes, get a serious public discussion about the future of education,’ everybody’s interested in it,” said Noel Burke, QESBA’s vice-president.

“It [the government] needs to be engaged in it before such dramatic changes are made.”

For its part, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) is asking the government to exclude English boards from the reform until more consultations are done.

As it is, the group says, the bill infringes on the anglophone minority’s right to govern its own institutions and it would be best to slow down and consult in order to avoid a long legal challenge.

“I would estimate that for a full-on court proceeding from beginning to end, you’re in a five-10-year range,” explained Marion Sandilands, the QCGN’s legal counsel.

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

Quebec Premier François Legault says they’ve already listened to people’s concerns and are determined to push forward with the law.

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“Of course, we tabled the bill to be adopted.” Legault said.

He won’t say if it will be adopted before the Christmas break.

Kelley, who heard from 17 anglophone community groups, will present their briefs to the education minister and MNAs responsible for studying the bill.

The hope is that it will help Jean-François Roberbe gain perspective and change the bill to better serve the community.