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Quebec parents file legal challenge against province over back-to-school plan

Click to play video 'Montreal lawyer files motion opposing Quebec’s back to school plan' Montreal lawyer files motion opposing Quebec’s back to school plan
WATCH: Constitutional Lawyer Julius Grey has filed a motion in Quebec Superior court, challenging the province's back to school plan which does not allow children to participate in distance learning without a medical exemption. According to Grey, by not allowing parents the right to choose, the province is violating their charter rights. Global's Olivia O'Malley has the details.

A group of Quebec parents has officially filed legal action against the provincial government in hopes of securing a distance learning option for families who don’t want their children to physically attend school this fall amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

The challenge, which includes a motion for a safeguard order, was filed by prominent human rights lawyer Julius Grey on Friday in Quebec Superior Court. It comes as thousands of students are expected to head back to class as early as next week.

Requiring children to attend classes in person violates their parents’ charter rights to make decisions that affect their health and safety, according to Grey.

“Our argument is that fundamental questions of life, death, illness security are ones that belong naturally to the families and not to regulators and that’s what the charter guarantees,” he said Friday.

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READ MORE: Increase in number of Quebec parents turning to homeschooling: Ministry of Education

Sarah Gibson, a mother of two children and one of the plaintiffs behind the legal challenge, said she was “really happy” about filing the motion. She started an online petition calling for changes to the province’s plan.

“The clock is ticking before students start school,” she told Global News.

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Quebec’s most recent back-to-school plan only offers an online learning option to children with a medical exemption — although some parents say they have had a hard time securing notes for their kids. The services are only offered if a child or someone in their household has a medical condition that puts them at risk of health complications due to COVID-19.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge unveiled the new coronavirus measures for the education system earlier this month, saying it was important for children’s health to return to class.

Global News has reached out to the education minister concerning the legal action, but did not hear back.

READ MORE: Lawsuit to challenge Quebec back to school plan requiring in person attendance

Politimi Karounis, a mother of two, is one of the six parents behind the challenge. She hopes the government hears their message.

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“I have seen to their health, their safety and their education since the day I was blessed with them,” she said, referring to her children.

“Minister Roberge, Premier (François) Legault I have no intention of stopping now. I’m a mother and giving up on my children is never going to happen.”

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Pandemic poses new challenges for Quebec boarding school

In most parts of the province, students forced to stay home at the outset of the pandemic headed back to class in May. In the Greater Montreal area, the epicentre of the COVID-19’s outbreak in the country, the majority of elementary and high schools have not had in-person schooling since mid-March.

Quebec has the highest number of deaths and cases attributable to the virus in the country. Over the past five months, the province has reported 61,495 infections and 5,733 deaths.

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With files from the Canadian Press