Quebec's education reform infringes on anglophone rights, English school boards say
The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) is considering legal action against Bill 23, a proposed education reform that would give the provincial government more control over school boards.
The bill, tabled last week, would authorize the education minister to appoint and dismiss school service centre directors general and override decisions that don't align with given objectives, among other changes.
Education Minister Bernard Drainville confirmed that the bill would apply to both French school service centres and the province's nine English school boards, sparking immediate backlash.
The QESBA argues that certain aspects of the bill, if passed, would infringe on the rights of the English-speaking community in managing its own school system.
"There are a couple of provisions that are clearly unconstitutional, in our view," said Russell Copeman, executive director of QESBA. "One is the government giving itself the power to appoint directors general of school boards."
He pointed to a 1990 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada which affirmed the right of minority-language communities to manage and control their children's education, either by guaranteed representation on existing school boards or by establishing separate boards entirely.
Giving the provincial government authority to choose school board directors, as well as overrule their decisions, would be a "clear and manifest" violation of this right, Copeman argued.
"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," he said.
He said the QESBA is urging the government to change the applicable provisions before the bill becomes law.
Last week, Education Minister Drainville said he believes Bill 23 "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.
But to Copeman, this promise "misses the point."
"It is not who is appointed, it is who is given the power to appoint that is the constitutional guarantee," he said.
Drainville said the main goal of Bill 23 is improve the education network's efficiency and unify the system under "the same vision."