Anglo groups condemn Roberge for making school transfer announcement on French radio
Anglophone community groups were swift to condemn the education minister Tuesday – not only on his decision to transfer three English schools into the French system, but in the way he made the announcement.
On Tuesday morning, Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge told 98.5 host Paul Arcand that he will transfer the schools to the overcrowded Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île by ministerial decree.
EMSB officials said they were not told of Roberge's decision before his radio appearance and had yet to hear from the minister as of Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m extremely disappointed in the education minister for having made such an announcement in the media during a 7 o’clock interview that he did, leaving us a little bit in the lurch,” said EMSB chair Angela Mancini, explaining that the community of parents, students, teachers and staff would have appreciated it being handled with more consideration. “I feel it is a bit irresponsible for the minister to have gone this particularly route. We’re very disappointed with the way in which he is acting… we are not able to get any answers from the ministry at this time in order to be able to reassure our families that are waiting for answers from us.”
Russell Copeman, head of the Quebec English School Boards Association, was also critical of the announcement.
"To go on a French-language radio show and make that announcement without advising the English Montreal School Board, it's a shocking lack of consideration on the part of the government," Copeman said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Quebec Community Groups Network President Geoffrey Chambers said he was disappointed that Roberge made the announcement via French radio without giving prior notice to the affected parties.
"I think we're entitled to some kind of courtesy and explanation," said Chambers. "Taking away our schools is just not alright. The EMSB has gone through a lot of effort to put together a reasonable offer. They are not obliged to do this. These are our assets that are supposed used for our kids."
Roberge declined a one-on-one interview with CTV Montreal and other English media, but has spoken on several French-language media outlets throughout the day.
"We had a lot of discussion with parents directly, with the community, and so I still believe that we have a good relation with the Anglophone community," he said in a scrum inside the National Assembly.
Chambers said they are ready to take legal action if necessary.
“This is unconstitutional, and I think not taking legal action allows it to stand as a precedent, so I think we absolutely have to stand up and say the schools of the English-speaking communities are owned by the English-speaking communities’ institutions, not by the minister of education,” he said. “That’s what the Supreme Court jurisprudence says and he’s not respecting it, so we absolutely have to have that clarified for him through a court process if he’s not prepared to come to the table in a reasonable way.”
- With files from The Canadian Press