Quebec teachers’ union goes to court to demand rapid COVID-19 testing

A student is greeted at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal, on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Thousands of Quebec students return to class in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A Quebec teachers’ union said Wednesday it’s going to court to demand the government put in place a rapid COVID-19 testing strategy in the school system and to divulge the number of infections among students, teachers and staff.

The Federation autonome de l’enseignement, which represents some 49,000 teachers, says it has not yet seen evidence such a strategy exists despite a promise made by Health Minister Christian Dube on Aug. 10.

The union says it will also ask the Quebec Superior Court to force the government to hand over all documents related to the province’s health plan for schools, including data related to COVID-19 infections.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Two staff members at Cité-des-Jeunes high school in Vaudreuil in isolation

Union President Sylvain Mallette said the legal action is an attempt to get answers from the province, which he says has refused to provide the information unions need to keep students and teachers safe. When documents are sent they are often redacted, he said.

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Meanwhile, a Montreal father who is frustrated by the lack of government data said Wednesday he’s decided to take matters into his own hands.

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Olivier Drouin created the website “COVID Ecoles Quebec,” which lists schools where students or staff have tested positive.

Drouin said the site currently lists about 30 schools. He does not report the number of cases in each place. He said the public is invited to anonymously signal positive cases to the website.

“I know there’s no zero risk,” Drouin, a father of two, said in an interview. But he said he believes students are being sent back to school in less-than-optimal conditions.

Drouin said he verifies each case before posting to his website. If someone submits an entry to him, he said he asks for the official school letter sent to parents informing them of a positive case. He said he also uses media articles, calls teachers directly and occasionally reaches out to the schools himself.

The Quebec government has said it is working on compiling a list of COVID-19 cases linked to schools.

If the government follows through, Drouin said he’ll happily take down his site.

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Class sizes, supply teachers and safety: back-to-school concerns for Quebec’s teachers – Sep 1, 2020

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