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Quebec’s highest court upholds stay on education reform

Bill 40 has turned school boards into service centres in Quebec. File

The Quebec Court of Appeal has upheld a stay issued earlier in the month to English school boards challenging the province’s education reform known as Bill 40.

Justice Benoit Moore of the appellate court refused the Quebec government’s request to overturn the stay in a decision issued Thursday night. But he did set Sept. 14 as a date for a panel of judges from Quebec’s top court to review the matter.

Bill 40, which was passed in February after the Legault government invoked closure, abolishes Quebec school boards in favour of service centres. Under the law, English school boards retain the right to hold democratic elections and were given until November to shift to service centres.

READ MORE: English school boards battle with Quebec government over Bill 40 in province’s highest court

However, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) and other groups filed an injunction in May, challenging the governance plan on the basis it doesn’t respect Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The section guarantees minority language educational rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.

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On Aug. 10, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled in favour of groups seeking to stay the application of the law in English school boards until a full legal challenge could be heard.

Afterwards, Premier François Legault had vowed to contest the ruling, saying the legislation is “well-founded.”

QESBA welcomed the ruling Thursday and called on the government to postpone school board elections set for November.

READ MORE: Quebec premier vows to appeal ruling after education reform put on hold for English school boards

“This is bigger than those of us who are here now,” president Dan Lamoureux said in a statement. “Our community is fighting for the vitality and future of our minority community to benefit this generation and those to come.”

A spokesperson for Quebec’s education ministry told Global News that the requests have not yet been ruled on but “simply transferred to a panel which will hear the case on Sept. 14.”

A court date for the first hearing on the constitutionality of the legislation has not yet been set.

— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press

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