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English community groups in Quebec to challenge Bill 40 in court

Bill 40, which the Legault government forced through the National Assembly, will abolish school boards across the province and replace them with service centres.
Bill 40, which the Legault government forced through the National Assembly, will abolish school boards across the province and replace them with service centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-Language Education in Quebec (APPELE-Québec) and the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) announced on Thursday their plans to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 40 in court.

In a statement, QESBA said the Quebec government forced the school board reform bill “despite unanimous opposition to the legislation and in complete disregard for the English-speaking community’s right to manage its minority language educational institutions.”

Bill 40, which the Legault government rammed through the National Assembly in early February by invoking closure, abolishes boards across the province and replaces them with service centres.

“We believe minority rights are important in our society,” Geoffrey Kelley, chair of APPELE-Québec, told Global News on Thursday. “And this government does not have a very good track record in terms of respecting [those rights].”

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

He said he felt they had no choice but to proceed with legal action.

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A statement from Education Minister Jean-François Roberge’s office said the ministry deplored the decision to challenge bill, saying the legislation completely respects anglophone rights.

Roberge’s statement added that the government is confident they will win in court.

The APPELE-Québec chair said the move to defend the right to manage their education system has widespread support from English-speaking Quebecers across the province.

Kelley confirmed that the English community groups will use federal funding from the Court Challenges Program.

The groups said they will prepare their case in the coming weeks and recruit parents and other community members to participate as plaintiffs in the legal challenge.

Quebec’s English-language school boards are slated to close this November and be replaced with the service centres.

Bill 40 also abolishes elections for board commissioners in the French-language system, who will be replaced with appointed members.

Backlash continues at National Assembly against Bill 40
Backlash continues at National Assembly against Bill 40