Montreal

Anglo school boards remain intact for now after judge grants stay

English-language school boards will be allowed to continue operating while they challenge the constitutionality of the Quebec government's law to turn school boards into service centres. 

Government to appeal ruling, says law respects English community's right to manage schools

English-language boards, like the English Montreal School Board, will be allowed to continue to operate while they challenge the constitutionality of Bill 40. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

English-language school boards will be allowed to continue to operate while they challenge the constitutionality of the Quebec government's law to turn school boards into service centres. 

On Monday, a Quebec Superior Court judge granted the school boards an injunction, saying the law — known as Bill 40 and passed in February — hinders the English-speaking community's ability to manage and control its minority language educational institutions.

The injunction applies only to English-language school boards. 

A coalition of community groups and school boards took the Legault government to court after the law was passed. 

Bill 40 changed most school boards into service centres and did away with elections for French-language boards, in an effort to decentralize power.

Before the Quebec Superior Court decision, English school board commissioners had been given until November to hold elections for directors of the new English service centres.

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), among those backing the court fight, said it is "very pleased with the decision."

"Given the very limited amount of time our boards have to organize school elections, scheduled for November 1st, we are hopeful that the government will not appeal this decision," said QESBA's president, Dan Lamoureux, in a statement Monday. 

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, who presented adjustments to the COVID-19 back-to-school plan Monday, says the government will appeal. 

"We will address this question with our lawyers," Roberge said. "We are fully confident that we respect the right of the English community to manage and control their network with the [application] of Bill 40."

Russell Copeman is the executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association, which represents nine English-language school boards across the province. (CBC)

Russell Copeman, the executive director of QESBA, says the coalition was concerned by the restrictions on who could run for the different positions within services centres — including that candidates must be within the ages of 18 and 35 for some and have a background in finance for others. 

"The exercise of democracy is not just about whether or not you cast your vote but it's also about who gets to run," Copeman said. 

Parents can be elected to wards under Bill 40, but in order to run must also be a member of their child's school governing board, another provision Copeman said "eliminates 99 per cent of parents from being candidates."

A date for the first Quebec Superior Court hearing on the bill's constitutionality has not been set. 

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