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Long-awaited challenge to Quebec’s school board reform begins in superior court

Quebec's English school boards are taking the school board reform to court. Getty Images

Quebec’s Superior Court began to hear the challenge to the provincial government’s Bill 40 by English-language school boards on Wednesday.

They are contesting the provisions of the law. The English boards argue that they infringe the protection of the rights of the English-speaking minority in Quebec, which is guaranteed by Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The legislation transformed French-language school boards into school service centres. It also abolished school elections in francophone districts and gave more powers to parents’ committees in school service centres.

The school elections were, however, maintained for anglophone school boards.

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

The Quebec English School Boards Association — which brings together the nine English school boards — sees it as an important battle for the defense of the rights of anglophone Quebecers and the control of their institutions.

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Stephen Burke, president of the Central Quebec School Board, detailed the education in the English system that he received and how he perceived his role as defender of the rights of anglophones in a region that is mostly French-speaking.

“Our schools are the fulcrum of our communities,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Bill 40 & Quebec’s school board elections' Bill 40 & Quebec’s school board elections
Bill 40 & Quebec’s school board elections – Sep 21, 2020

The second witness, Mary Ellen Beaulieu from the Eastern Shores school board in Baie-Comeau, agreed. She described dealing with “very committed parents” who run shows, fundraisers and other activities.

The two did admit, however, that several members of their council were however elected or re-elected without opposition.

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

With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise

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