Court upholds suspension of Quebec's reform of English school boards

The Quebec Court of Appeal has upheld a suspension of Bill 40, the CAQ government's controversial education reform. That means English language school boards will be allowed to continue to operate, at least for now.

English boards can hold off transition to service centres for now

The court's decision means anglophone boards like The English Montreal School Board will not have to start the transition to become service centres until a final decision is reached in the case. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec Court of Appeal has upheld a suspension of Bill 40, the CAQ government's controversial education reform. 

Bill 40, passed in February, changed most school boards into service centres and did away with elections for French-language boards. Elected positions were maintained for the new English-language service centres.

The suspension only applies to English boards.

English boards were required to begin the transition to service centres after board elections in November. With this decision, it appears that won't happen.

A coalition of community groups and school boards is challenging the constitutionality of the law, arguing it violates minority language educational rights.

In August, the group obtained an injunction suspending application of Bill 40 for English boards until the merits of the case could be argued in court.

The Quebec government appealed that suspension, making arguments earlier this week.

Decision favours protecting rights of linguistic minority

Thursday's decision upholds the suspension until the case can be argued on its merits, which likely won't happen for several months.

"The replacement of English school boards by the school service centres forms part of what, at first glance at least, constitutes a significant transfer of the power of management and control over the English-language minority's educational system to the minister and to employees of future school service centres," the decision from a panel of three judges says.

"The public interest leans in favour of protecting the rights of the official linguistic minority rather than implementing Bill 40 in the English educational sector, at least until there is a judgment on the merits."

Russell Copeman, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), one of the groups challenging Bill 40, said he was thrilled with the decision.

Copeman said the decision means school board elections this fall will proceed under the old system.

But QESBA is asking the government to consider postponing until after a decision is made on the merits in the case.


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