Court rejects government appeal, Bill 40 remains suspended for Quebec English school boards

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Quebec court rejects government appeal, Bill 40 remains suspended for English school boards
WACH: The Court of Appeal has decided Bill 40 will not apply to English school boards while a wider challenge to the school board reform law works its way through the courts. Global's Dan Spector reports. – Sep 17, 2020

Quebec’s Court of Appeal decided on Thursday that Bill 40 — the education reform law — will not apply to English school boards in the province.

“It’s a victory for minority rights,” said former MNA and head of APPELE Québec Geoff Kelley.

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a stay issued in early August to English school boards challenging the province’s education reform legislation.

Under Bill 40, Quebec school boards are replaced with service centres. The law was passed in February and the Legault government invoked closure.

It also eliminates elections in the French-language system for members of those service centres. English school boards were however given the right to continue to hold democratic elections and were given until November to shift to service centres.

READ MORE: Quebec’s highest court upholds stay on education reform

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) and other groups, however, 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.
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Premier François Legault then vowed to contest the ruling, saying the legislation is “well-founded.”
On Aug. 21, Justice Benoit Moore of the appellate court refused the Quebec government’s request to overturn the stay. Moore set a mid September as a date for a panel of judges from Quebec’s top court to review the matter.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal judged that the public interest is better served by protecting linguistic minority rights over implementing the law in the English educational sector — at least until the full case can be argued in court.

The panel of justices wrote that Bill 40 appears to transfer control from the English school boards to the province, and that the legislation appears to limit many members of the English-speaking community from seeking elected positions on the boards of the new service centres.

“In this case the public interest leans in favour of protecting the rights of the official linguistic minority rather than implementing Bill 40 in the English educational sector, at least until there is a judgment on the merits,” the appeals court ruled.

Quebec’s Education Minister Jean-François Roberge reiterated Legault’s statement on Thursday, saying the law “completely respects the constitutional rights of Anglophones.”
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In a statement, QESBA said it was very pleased with the court’s s judgement in favour of maintaining the stay for Bill 40.
Roberge added that the education ministry will further analyze the court’s judgement before providing any further comments.
–with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise and the Canadian Press
Click to play video: 'Bill 40: Quebec English School Boards Association considering legal action'
Bill 40: Quebec English School Boards Association considering legal action

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