Quebec English School Boards Association files legal action against Bill 40, province’s education reform

Bill 40 was adopted in February 2020. It overhauls the school board system.
Bill 40 was adopted in February 2020. It overhauls the school board system. Getty images

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) has filed legal action against the province’s Bill 40, which abolishes boards across the province and replaces them with service centres.

“We recognize that the filing of this legal action is not ideal under the current circumstances,” president Dan Lamoureux said in a statement.

“This should not come as a surprise as we publicly announced our intention to file this action accompanied by all of our education and community partners last February.”

READ MORE: English community groups in Quebec to challenge Bill 40 in court

The legal challenge has become a “pressing matter” because elections for English school boards are expected to be held in November and due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Lamoureux.

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The education reform known as Bill 40 was adopted in February after the Quebec government invoked closure.

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

READ MORE: Backlash continues at National Assembly against Quebec’s education reform bill

Amid the health crisis, QESBA said it asked to push back the elections scheduled for November, but claims the request was refused.

The association said in a statement it filed for an interlocutory injunction and judicial review in Quebec Superior Court on May 15. Its co-applicants are the Lester B. Pearson School Board and Adam Gordon, the chairman of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s parent committee.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec (APPELLE-Quebec) Quebec-wide community coalition of 16 groups representing parents, educators and the community endorsed QESBA’s court challenge.

Before the bill was passed into law, APPELE-Québec hosted its own hearings into Bill 40, arguing many members of the English-speaking community were left out of the official channels and their concerns weren’t being heard.

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

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The group continues to argue Bill 40 impinges on the constitutional rights of the English-speaking minority in Quebec to manage its own school system.

“We fear that gong ahead with the implementation of this legislation will have a significant and detrimental impact on the vitality and continuity of Quebec’s English-speaking minority,” said Geoffrey Kelley, chair of the association.

He also hopes the government will wait until the courts have made a decision before moving forward.

Kelley believes delaying the elections, in light of the pandemic, is the right thing to do as there are many organizational hurdles to overcome.

“It is unlikely that parents will be able to gather in the fall to elect school governing boards. Yet parents wishing to run for a position on the board of directors of school service centres must first be a member of their local school governing board,” he said, citing one example.

Global News reached out to the education minister’s office and was told there would be no comments on the issue at this time.

— With files from Global’s Annabelle Olivier