Huge Victory for Minority Language Rights in Quebec’s Superior Court

Montreal, August 10, 2020 – The Quebec Community Groups Network applauded a Quebec Superior Court decision to suspend the application of Quebec government reforms to the governance of English school boards while the courts review the constitutionality of Bill 40: An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. Read more >>>

QESBA applauds major win on Bill 40

Montréal, August 10, 2020 – The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) is very pleased with the Québec Superior Court judgment in our favour on a stay of Bill 40: An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance rendered by Justice Lussier today. 

QESBA and its co-applicants filed for an interlocutory injunction or a stay in May of this year to suspend the application of Bill 40 to English school boards, arguing that the new governance model does not respect section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to manage and control our minority language educational institutions. Read more >>>

Court Challenge to Bill 40 Launched

Quebec’s English-speaking minority seeks interlocutory injunction

Montreal, May 28, 2020 – APPELE-Québec has endorsed the Quebec English School Boards Association’s (QESBA) constitutional challenge to Bill 40, An act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. The filing includes a request to the Superior Court of Quebec for an interlocutory injunction to suspend those provisions of Bill 40 which apply to English-language School Boards and indeed affect the entire English-language public school network.

“As we have argued for months,” explained Geoffrey Kelley, Chair of APPELE-Québec, a coalition of 16 groups representing parents, educators and the community, “Bill 40 curtails our community’s constitutional right to manage and control our school system. We have an honest and fundamental  disagreement with the Quebec government. We fear that gong ahead with the implementation of this legislation will have a significant and detrimental impact on the vitality and continuity of Quebec’s English-speaking minority. The responsible way to move forward is to wait until the courts have ruled on this matter. It is good public policy and will be less expensive for all concerned.”

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Mahe vs Alberta that official language minorities have the right under Article 23 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to manage and control their schools.. APPELE-Québec maintains that Bill 40 curtails the English-speaking minority community’s constitutional right to do so. The Minister himself confirmed during committee hearings that the newly minted Service Centres, school boards successors under the Bill, will be nothing more than empty shells, stripped of the powers and responsibilities that democratically-elected school boards now have. In addition, there are serious flaws with the proposed system to elect members to these Service Center Boards. The right to be a candidate, for example, is severely limited for both parents and members of the community.

“Delaying the implementation of Bill 40 is both the practical and responsible course of action, particularly in light of the pandemic,” continued Mr. Kelley. “Holding elections this fall when as officials have warned the preparatory work for the organization of elections is far behind schedule, and there will likely still be restrictions on public gatherings is unrealistic. As just one example of the hurdles it is unlikely that parents will be able to gather in the fall to elect school governing boards. Yet parent’s wishing to run for a position on the board of directors of school service centre must first be a member of their local school governing board.”

“Continuity of leadership,” concluded Mr. Kelley, “is critical during the coming months as we focus on how to operate our schools during this challenging period and on ensuring we provide students and staff with a safe and secure environment.”

Delaying the elections to coincide with municipal elections is consistent with  a key recommendation of the 2015 Jennings Report and is supported by  QESBA, the English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA), the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and  the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations (QFHSA).

About APPELE-Québec:

APPELE-Québec – the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec – is a broadly-based, Quebec-wide community coalition to promote the continued existence of English school boards, to ensure they are governed by commissioners who are democratically elected by the English-speaking community at large. Our Alliance is comprised of 16 supporting organizations and nine observer groups. For more information about APPELE-Québec, go to www.appelequebec.org.

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For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Goldbloom
Avenue Strategic Communications
Tel. 514-750-0337
Jonathan.Goldbloom@communicationsavenue.com

APPELE-Québec Deplores Government Haste in Involving Closure on Bill 40

Montreal, February 6, 2020 – APPELE-Québec expressed today its frustration and displeasure with the Government of Quebec’s decision to once again limit debate on Bill 40 by invoking closure.

Since the tabling of this complex and at times incoherent bill – it amends 84 separate Acts of the National Assembly – Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has done everything he can to restrict debate on his proposed changes to the governance of our school system. For example, he restricted the number of groups allowed to appear before the parliamentary committee reviewing his proposed legislation, forcing us to hold our own public hearings to ensure our community’s voices would be heard.

On Tuesday, Minister Roberge tabled more than 80 amendments to the Bill and shortly thereafter he tabled amendments to the amendments. The end result is that APPELE-Québec and our members have not had the chance to digest his proposals and understand their impact.

Closure is usually invoked at the end of a parliamentary session, not at the beginning. In order to meet an ill-considered timetable, Minister Roberge is showing a total disrespect for the democratic process. He is moving forward with closure over the objections of the three opposition parties, the major players in the field of education, not to mention Quebec’s English-speaking minority community. He is not operating in the best interest of our students, their families or our teachers. The mistakes made today will haunt Quebec for months and years to come.

We deplore Minister Roberge’s decision to ram this critical Bill through the National Assembly without taking the time to listen and address the significant concerns that APPELE-Québec and others have raised.

About APPELE-Québec:
APPELE-Québec – the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec – is a broadly-based, Quebec-wide community coalition to promote the continued existence of English school boards, to ensure they are governed by commissioners who are democratically elected by the English-speaking community at large. Our Alliance is comprised of 16 supporting organizations and nine observer groups. For more information about APPELE-Québec, go to www.appelequebec.org.

For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Goldbloom
Avenue Strategic Communications
Phone: 514 750-0337
Jonathan.Goldbloom@communicationsavenue.com

APPELE-Québec Proposes Path for Breaking Impasse on Bill 40

For immediate release

Montreal, February 3, 2020 – APPELE-Québec, an alliance of 16 groups representing parents, educators and the community, is urging the Quebec government to seek a court ruling on the constitutionality of Bill 40 which seeks to abolish our school boards.

“Since Bill 40 was tabled last fall, we have consistently reached out to Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and the Government of Quebec, offering to work with them to improve school governance,” said Geoffrey Kelley, Chair of the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec (APPELE-Québec). “But it is now clear that we have a fundamental difference of view over the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. That is why we are calling upon the government to submit a reference to the Court of Appeal before adopting the legislation or at least before implementing it.”

“What we are proposing is prudent, reasonable and responsible,” continues Kelley. “Let’s avoid a costly and prolonged court battle and get clarity and guidance from the courts before moving forward.”

Under the Court of Appeal Reference Act, only the government can submit a reference. It is important to emphasize that other provinces have often referred issues related to French-language education to their courts of appeal.

APPELE-Québec maintains that Bill 40 curtails Quebec’s English-speaking minority’s constitutional right to “control and manage” its school system. It points to the following:

  • Electoral lists have not been updated since 2014. As a result, many community members will lose their right to vote if the government goes ahead and holds service centre elections as planned next November.
  • Secondly, the right to be a candidate in Service Centre elections is severely compromised. For parent representatives, only those parents who sit on a school governing board will be eligible to run—thus preventing the vast majority of parents from being candidates. Community representatives, on the other hand, must have expertise in specific areas, from finance to governance, which once again clearly limits the candidate pool.
  • Thirdly, as Education Minister Roberge has stated, the proposed service centres will be empty shells, without the ability to really “control and manage” schools in the same manner as school boards have for decades. “There should be no mistake on the issue,” notes Kevin Shaar, Vice-Chair of APPELE-Québec. “This is not a simple name change or administrative reorganization.”

If, on the other hand, the Quebec Government is determined to pass Bill 40 in its current form, APPELE-Québec is calling for English school boards to be exempted  from the legislation as is being done with the Cree School Board and Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the school board of Nunavik.

“If the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is, quite rightly, sufficient cause to exempt the Cree and Inuit educational networks from Bill 40, then the Constitutional rights of Quebec’s English-speaking community to control and manage our educational system merits merit similar treatment,” adds Joan Fraser, Vice-Chair of APPELE-Québec. “Exempting the minority language school boards is in fact the path that was taken by the provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and as well as the Yukon Territory for minority French-language school boards when those jurisdictions changed the governance of their education systems.”

Regardless of the option chosen – a court reference or an exemption – APPELE-Québec invites the government to join with it in a broad and comprehensive community consultation on governance as well as the challenges facing the English public school system.

“Now is the time to step back and reflect on what is in the best interest of young Quebecers,” states Kelley. “Rather than looking at unnecessary and unworkable structural reform, all of the partners in our school system, including the Government, should be focusing on the development of strategies for promoting student success.”

About APPELE-Québec:

APPELE-Québec – the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec – is a broadly-based, Quebec-wide community coalition to promote the continued existence of English school boards, to ensure they are governed by commissioners who are democratically elected by the English-speaking community at large. Our Alliance is comprised of 16 supporting organizations and nine observer groups.

For more information about APPELE-Québec, go to www.appelequebec.org.

 

For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Goldbloom
Avenue Strategic Communications
Tel. 514 750-0337
Jonathan.Goldbloom@communicationsavenue.com

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