Legault defends education minister amid report on school air quality tests

Click to play video: 'School air quality tests: Quebec opposition parties call for education minister to resign' School air quality tests: Quebec opposition parties call for education minister to resign
WATCH: Opposition parties at the National Assembly are calling for Education Minister Jean-François Roberge to resign. They are accusing him of lying about carbon dioxide testing protocols in schools. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports – Apr 1, 2021

The leader of the Quebec Liberals is calling for the resignation of Jean-François Roberge as the province’s education minister.

Dominique Anglade said Thursday she believes that Roberge lied to Quebecers when he claimed to have public health’s approval for carbon dioxide (CO2) tests in schools.

The issue of air quality in classrooms has been a hot topic during the pandemic in Quebec. In November, a study found classrooms showed significant ventilation problems and CO2 levels above acceptable levels, which could favour the transmission of COVID-19.

A report commissioned by Roberge, however, found that school service centres and school boards have taken the appropriate measures to ensure indoor air quality. The ministry announced additional tests to measure CO2 levels in classrooms would be carried out by service centres starting last December to ensure current standards are being met.

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READ MORE: Quebec to start testing air quality in schools next week

Roberge and the ministry have repeatedly said that public health authorities had approved their method for testing air quality in the province’s classrooms.

However, Radio-Canada reported Thursday that such an endorsement never occurred. The public broadcaster also reported that the protocol for air quality tests hadn’t been developed with public health authorities as Roberge claimed.

“The minister lied about the public notices concerning CO2 tests in schools,” Anglade said Thursday at a press briefing at the provincial legislature.

“I believe the minister has really just signed his letter of resignation and that he has to step down, period.”

Roberge, for his part, was not present at the national assembly’s question period on Thursday — but Premier François Legault came to his defense.

Legault reiterated his confidence in Roberge. The premier also tabled a document on the ventilation protocol in schools in the provincial legislature.

“All of the public health recommendations have been incorporated into the document,” he said.

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Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson for Quebec solidaire, said he also believes that Roberge lied “to families, to the public and to parliamentarians.”

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“The cat is out of the bag,” he said. “What Jean-François Roberge did is very serious. He has exploited public health to cover up his own negligence in the air quality file.”

Nadeau-Dubois did not call for his resignation, however. He instead asked the government to “correct that mistake” by adopting a QS motion requiring the installation of CO2 detectors in all classrooms in Quebec.

“Jean-François Roberge can resign if he wants, he can keep his job, he can take the weekend to think about it or a sabbatical year — that does not bother me,” he said. “What I want is for the air our children breathe not to give them COVID.”

With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise and Annabelle Olivier

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