Legault education reform sparks questions, possible legal action from English school boards

Click to play video 'Bill 40: Quebec English School Boards Association considering legal action' Bill 40: Quebec English School Boards Association considering legal action
WATCH: The Quebec English School Boards Association is considering legal action over the province’s controversial school board reform legislation known as Bill 40.

Quebec’s English school boards are slated to close this November and be replaced with service centres after Quebec passed bill 40 last weekend. The impacts of the change are still being measured by officials at English schools, and a legal challenge could be on the horizon.

“It’ll be a sad day for sure,” said Dan Lamoureux, chair of the Riverside School Board on the South Shore. After 20 years of working within Riverside, his job will end when the reform is enacted in the English system this fall.

“I put a lot of effort and time into the school board to do what’s best for the community and the children in our school, so I’m going to miss it.”

Like many, he still has a lot of questions about just what will change when school boards are replaced by service centers, and what the effects on students and their parents will be.

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READ MORE: Quebec education minister, municipalities to meet again to discuss Bill 40 solutions

“I really don’t know, because it’s so fluid. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what will happen and how we will function,” he said.

One of his concerns is where a parent will bring a complaint when school commissioners are replaced by boards of directors.

“If a parent was not happy [with] a decision, they would have an opportunity to appeal it to the council, so that will be taken away,” he said.
Click to play video 'Backlash continues at National Assembly against Bill 40' Backlash continues at National Assembly against Bill 40
Backlash continues at National Assembly against Bill 40

“Mr. Roberge himself said during the hearings that these boards of directors won’t have much power,” said Russell Copeman, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards. “They will not be doing things comparable to the council of commissioners.”

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At the New Frontiers School Board on Friday, Copeman and a group of English school board administrators discussed the new reality.

“The bill is unworkable, unacceptable and infringes on the constitutional rights of the English community to control our school system,” Copeman said.

In November, elections will be held to decide who will run the new service centers, and Copeman said how that will work remains unclear.

READ MORE: ‘Not good for democracy’: Quebec government’s plan to invoke closure on Bill 40 sparks anger

“Many of the decisions that need to be made about an election on Nov. 1, 2020 should have been made last year, so it’s getting very late.”

English school board officials are involved in advanced discussions with lawyers about a legal challenge.

“The Quebec English School Boards Association, in the coming days, will make a definitive decision with regards to initiating legal proceedings,” Copeman explained.

The English Montreal and Lester B Pearson School Boards are among those that have sent out letters assuring parents they should not notice any change in the short term.

“I don’t think they’ll notice anything in the beginning. Our buses will run, our teachers will still be there,” said New Frontiers School Board chair David Daoust.

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In the long term, the administrators fear high success rates at Quebec English schools could be jeopardized if the new plan is not rolled out properly.