Montreal

EMSB to take Quebec to court over school transfers, threat to abolish boards

The English Montreal School Board is taking the Quebec government to court over its forced school transfers and its plan to do away with school boards. 

School board plans to budget surplus for legal battle, urges others to pitch in

EMSB chair Angela Mancini held a news conference Tuesday outlining her board's plan to fight the province in court. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The English Montreal School Board is taking the Quebec government to court over its forced school transfers and its plan to do away with school boards. 

EMSB chair Angela Mancini said the board is fighting for the rights of all English school boards across the province.

"School boards, and the multi-faceted role that they play, [are] extremely important for our minority community," she said at a news conference Tuesday. 

The board plans to use $1.3 million in surplus money from its international student program to help pay for the legal fees, which could total several million dollars.

She is hoping other English school boards and representatives from the English-speaking community pitch in.

Earlier this year, the EMSB attempted to legally stop the transfer of two schools, including General Vanier Elementary School in Saint-Léonard. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

In July, a Quebec Superior Court justice rejected an injunction filed by the EMSB aimed at halting the transfer of two English schools to the CSPI, a French-language board.

That challenge, however, still hasn't been heard on its merits by the Quebec Superior Court, even though the school transfer already took place.

The EMSB plans to file a separate lawsuit arguing that doing away with English school boards would be a violation of minority rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

The Coalition Avenir Québec government ​is planning to table legislation this fall that would replace the province's school boards with regional service centres. Abolishing school boards was a campaign promise in the last election.

The EMSB says doing so would "lessen the quality of English education."

Education Ministry defends position

In a statement, a spokesperson for Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge maintains the ministry's position when it comes to transferring the two schools.

Spokesperson Francis Bouchard said that while the English schools lacked students, the French board was short on space.

Students were welcomed back to Pierre-de-Coubertin Elementary School Tuesday after a summer of dispute between the EMSB and the CAQ government. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

"The right to education of hundreds of students was compromised," he said.

Bouchard said the threat of legal action means the ministry will not comment further.

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