'Deeply troubling': English parents group says it was left out of hearings on Quebec education bill
A parents' group representing students in English-language school boards said it is "deeply troubling" that it was not invited to participate in public hearings on a bill that would overhaul Quebec's education system.
Tabled in early May, the Act to amend mainly the Education Act and to enact the Act respecting the Institut national d’excellence en education, also known as Bill 23, would give the provincial government more control over school boards.
Included in the bill are provisions that would, among other things, allow the education minister to appoint and dismiss the heads of school service centres and override decisions that don't align with specific objectives. The Ministry of Education confirmed that the bill would apply to both French school service centres and the province's nine English school boards.
The English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA) said in a news release Tuesday that it was "excluded" from the committee hearings, which are scheduled to start Thursday in Quebec City.
Their name does not appear on the hearing schedule posted on the National Assembly website. Two groups representing francophone parents — the Fédération des comités de parents du Québec and the Regroupement des comités de parents autonomes du Québec — appear on the list of speakers invited to speak about the bill.
No English parents groups appear on the list. The only group that represents the anglophone community is the Quebec English School Boards Association.
"All of the associations representing the French parent committees have been invited to participate, but EPCA has been excluded, despite having directly requested to participate," the release said.
The group said it represents the majority of the English parent committees in the province, who will be impacted by the proposed legislation.
EPCA President Katherine Korakakis said the decision sends the message that the government "doesn't want to hear what we have to say."
"If you look at the groups that are there, there's only one anglophone group that's been invited to speak on something that's very impactful to our community," Korakakis said in an interview Tuesday.
She said she inquired with the Ministry of Education as to why the group wasn't invited but said she did not understand the ministry's response.
When asked why the EPCA wasn't invited, a spokesperson for Education Minister Bernard Drainville said in an email to CTV News that the list of groups scheduled to speak on Bill 23 was "the subject of discussions and agreement of all the political parties."
"Many groups will be heard in parliamentary committee, while others will not," the email said, adding that "groups that are not in committee can still send in their briefs to make their points and have them analyzed."
'IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO HAVE A VOICE'
Korakakis said the English-speaking community has a different governance system and should have a place at the table.
"It's important for us to have a voice to be able to just lend our voice to this very troublesome bill. Once again, this is something where the English-speaking community is feeling attacked," she said.
The sole English group invited to speak, the QESBA, has said it is considering taking the government to court over Bill 23 — legislation it believes is unconstitutional and infringes the rights of the English-speaking community in managing its own school system.
"As is, if the national assembly were to adopt [Bill 23] in present form, the QESBA would immediately undertake a constitutional challenge to the bill," said Russell Copeman, executive director of QESBA, earlier this month.
Copeman has urged the government to amend the bill before it becomes law.
After introducing Bill 23, Minister Drainville said he believes the legislation "respects the rights" of Quebec's anglophones.
"I'm extremely aware of the fact that this is something that is very, very important to the English-speaking community," Drainville told CTV News, noting that the candidates he recommends as executive director will be from the English-speaking community.
With files from CTV News Montreal's Angela Mackenzie and Lilly Roy