Supreme Court ruling could boost Quebec English speakers' right to manage their own schools
MONTREAL -- The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with a French-language school board in British Columbia in a ruling that could end up providing a boost for Quebec English speakers’ rights as well.
It’s particularly seen as a boon to English-speaking Quebecers as they challenge a provincial law that’s transforming English school boards.
The court said the province of B.C. must provide more funding to the board and fix run-down schools. It said the province was violating the Charter rights of BC’s French-speaking minority by not doing so.
Section 23 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows linguistic minorities to control and manage their own education institutions. The ruling is seen by some as a broad recognition of this right.
The B.C. court case began years ago when the Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie Britanique—which includes more than 40 schools—challenged the B.C. government's system of funding those schools. The board had been denied millions of dollars for capital projects.
Today, that board says the ruling will mean funding for eight French-language schools in Whistler, Chilliwack, Burnaby and North Vancouver, among other places.
In Quebec, whlie the anglophone school system is generally well-funded, shrinking demographics have forced boards to cut the number of schools overall.
Then, more recently, the current CAQ government brought in Bill 40, which is transforming schools boards into “service centres.”
"Bill 40 centralizes much of the decision-making," said Russell Copeman, the director of the Quebec English School Boards Association.
"We believe that infringes on our right to control and manage."
Though the planned changes won’t be as drastic for Quebec’s nine anglophone boards, the schools boards’ association says today's ruling should help it with its court challenge to the law.
The association is even using the same legal firm that the B.C. French-language board used.