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Quebec government proposes dozens of amendments to controversial school board reform

Quebec government proposes 80 new amendments to Bill 40
WATCH: The battle over the government's proposed Bill 40, which would eliminate school boards as we know them, continues. On Tuesday, the CAQ proposed 80 new amendments to the bill, but as Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, none of them appeal to the coalition of English-speaking groups that oppose it.

The provincial government has tabled 112 pages of new amendments to its proposed school board reform legislation, Bill 40, which will eliminate school board elections if adopted.

None of the new amendments, however, are appeasing a coalition of English-speaking groups who want the bill killed.

READ MORE: English-speaking groups ask Quebec to seek court guidance over constitutionality of Bill 40

On Monday, the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-Language Education in Quebec (APPELE-Québec) urged the Quebec government to seek guidance from the Quebec Court of Appeal over the constitutionality of Bill 40. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he is not considering the idea.

Then, on Tuesday, Parti Québécois MNA Véronique Hivon accused the minister of trying to ram through his legislation.

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“The minister clearly has a bulldozing approach,” she said.

English-speaking groups hoping to have Bill 40 suspended
English-speaking groups hoping to have Bill 40 suspended

Roberge denied this accusation, but he said he’s considering closure — an option to muzzle the opposition in order to pass a bill with minimal debate, if the committee studying the bill does not finish its work soon.

“Quebecers have been really really patient. They voted in October 2018 for a change, so we will give them what they voted for,” he explained.

READ MORE: Quebec education minister weighs invoking closure to adopt Bill 40

With the committee having only reached article 8 out of 312, though, opposition parties are frustrated.

“I think Mr. Roberge wants to join the closure club,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec Solidaire (QS) house leader.

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“Mr. [Simon] Jolin-Barrette has a membership card, Mr. Jonatan Julien has a membership card and now Mr. Roberge wants his card and he wants to do a closure once again on a very controversial bill,” he said.
Quebec’s English community hosts its own Bill 40 hearings
Quebec’s English community hosts its own Bill 40 hearings

The problem, according to the opposition, is that Bill 40 is about more than just school boards.

“It was not in the original bill, but the minister just introduced an obligation of teacher training of 30 hours, which was not discussed with the teachers,” Hivon said.

“So there are many, many aspects of this bill that are passing under the radar.”

READ MORE: Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says many anglophones in favour of CAQ government

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On Tuesday morning, Minister Roberge tabled a sub-amendment to this amendment. QS MNA, Christine Labrie lost her patience.

“What is this?” she asked incredulously, before adding that the committee was facing “total improvisation” on the part of the government.

The minister then announced he planned to table 80 other amendments. House leader Simon Jolin-Barrette, however, said the government is just being transparent:

“To say, ‘Hey there is no surprise. Here are the amendments that we will table and that we want to adopt,'” he said.

Of those new amendments, only one concerns Quebec’s anglophone community directly. It proposes to ensure an equal number of parents and community members on the board of directors of the new services centres.

It’s a small change, given many anglophones say this bill could infringe on their constitutional rights, but Minister Roberge said he doesn’t plan to go further than that.