Quebec education minister weighs invoking closure to adopt Bill 40

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge wants to adopt the bill in the coming weeks. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government isn’t ruling out invoking closure to pass its proposed legislation to reform the province’s education system.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge confirmed on Friday at the Coalition Avenir Québec’s caucus that it is possible the province will force the adoption of Bill 40 at the National Assembly.

“It’s not my plan but if the opposition continues to slow down and block and obstruct working on Bill 40, maybe we will have to go there,” said Roberge.

Bill 40 seeks to eliminate school boards and replace them with service centres. The administration of centres would fall under a board of directors comprised of parents, community members and staff.

READ MORE: Students, staff at St. Dorothy Elementary come together to cope with EMSB school closures

As part of the law, general elections would also be eliminated for schools within the French-language system. The English-language service centres would still retain the right to hold democratic elections.

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The bill — which has 300 articles and would amend 80 existing laws — has been the subject of amendments, a study and hearings at the National Assembly.

Roberge said on Friday that he hopes to pass Bill 40 within the next few weeks and that he will invoke closure if necessary. In 2019, the Legault government used the measure to ram through its flagship pieces of legislation on immigration and secularism.

However, the opposition at the provincial legislature argued invoking closure comes off as a threat after all the work that has been done on the bill.

“Are we supposed to say thank you, good evening?” said Parti Québécois education critic Véronique Hivon. “Really?”

READ MORE: Quebec education minister hears concerns his bill will hurt community schools

The Quebec English School Boards Association called the use of closure “inconceivable.”

The Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec (APPELLE-Quebec) has also called a press conference for Monday. It calls the bill contentious, saying it “represents an assault on our constitutional rights.”

Quebec’s proposed reform has been criticized by the opposition, teaching unions, and school board associations. In November, more than a dozen groups demanded more consultations.

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The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, which represents 43,000 teachers in the province, has also lambasted the bill. It argues the proposed legislation does not take into account the expertise of teachers and would not better the lives of students in the public school system.

Roberge said he thinks there is a lot of good things in Bill 40 for teachers.

— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and the Canadian Press

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