A pair of Winnipeg city councillors, with the help of Mayor Brian Bowman are taking on the provincial government by introducing a motion that formally opposes Bill 64, also known as the Education Modernization Act.
Couns. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry) and Brian Mayes (St. Vital) will bring their motion before council’s Executive Policy Committee on Thursday.
The motion criticizes the province’s plan to abolish the current system of school boards, something Bowman told Global News is part of an ongoing pattern from his provincial counterparts.
“This is sadly fitting a pattern with the current provincial government in eroding local democracy.
“Bill 64 is one we’ve heard a lot from our residents,” he said.
“A lot of our councillors are former trustees, so they have a deeper appreciation than I do about the role and value that school boards provide within our community, and for our parents and children that are in our school system.”
Bowman said he has appointed a Council Liaison for School Boards and Youth Opportunities — a position that would be very difficult for anyone to do if the boards are eliminated.
The Mayes/Rollins motion also cites the 2011 OurWinnipeg Plan, which calls for council to not only foster close relationships with local school divisions, but to consult with affected school boards when it comes to preparing neighbourhood secondary plans.
A community group opposed to the bill protested at the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday, expressing their concerns that the Pallister government’s control over schools would mean — based on recent controversial remarks by the premier and the new minister of Indigenous reconciliation — a lack of accurate information about important local history like the residential school system.
“We are concerned that Bill 64 will further embed multiple forms of denial about these schools, their logic, their intent, and their effects in Manitoba’s education system,” ProtectEdMB said in a news release.
“Together, these failures threaten to add significant barriers on education’s responsibility in truth and reconciliation.”
Last month, the province launched a website to fight what it calls “misinformation” about the bill, as part of the ongoing battle over education in Manitoba.
At a press conference called to give an update on the plans June 14, Education Minister Cliff Cullen accused opposition groups like the Manitoba NDP, the Manitoba School Boards Association and the leadership of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society of misleading Manitobans about his government’s plans.
“These parties want to maintain the status quo,” he said.
“The status quo is we’re spending the third amount per capita in the country and achieving some of the poorest results. Manitobans and students deserve better.”