Anglo rights groups denounce end of school board elections
Anglophone rights groups say if they have to, they’ll take the provincial government to court over its plan to alter school boards and end community elections.
They argue it will end the constitutionally guaranteed right of minority groups to control education.
Education Minister Francois Blais introduced legislation earlier this month to drastically change how the officials on school boards are chosen.
When he tabled his bill, Blais said the Liberal government believed its new structure maintained the right of the minority to control its schools.
Before it was tabled the legislation regarding school boards was hotly debated, and the Quebec English School Boards Association hired former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings to solicit ideas on how boards could be improved.
Jennings argued that Bill 86 removes linguistic minority control, and so belongs in the garbage.
“It completely makes a mockery of our official language minority community, the English speakers here in Quebec, our right to control and manage English education within our communities,” she said.
Under Bill 86 most of the people sitting on the 16-member school board councils would not be elected. Principals, teachers and support staff would choose four people amongst themselves to be on the board, and parents' committees would name another six representatives.
If 15 per cent of parents decide they want an election, then six members of the community at large could be elected, otherwise those representatives would be appointed by parents' committees.
Blais has said the bill would give more control to parents through the councils and that some council elections could be held online, saving costs.
"There is nothing in Bill 86 that supports student success, even in the minister's own comments. It makes no sense," said Jennifer Maccarone of the QESBA.
Maccarone argues the education minister has paid no attention to the most successful school boards in Quebec.
"He has completely discounted and ignored everything that we have told him in terms of information that we know would be efficient to help us continue to support student success," said Maccarone.
"With an 85 per cent success rate across our nine school boards we are doing something right. We should be consulted."
Maccarone said that the legislation creates a convoluted structure to administer school boards, without any attempt to improve the situation in schools themselves.
James Shea of the Western Quebec School Board said it’s a well-disguised power grab by the minister.
“He's centralizing everything and we'll see the smaller schools fighting amongst themselves and quite frankly would disappear,” he said.
The former Quebec Commissioner of Official Languages, Dr. Victor Goldbloom, said the lack of elections violates the Charter right of the linguistic minority education.
“And that jurisprudence is there for us to invoke,” he said.