Quebec Anglo groups gear up for fight to save elected school boards

The chair of the English school board serving West Quebec thinks a proposed law eliminating elected school boards should alarm English-speaking parents in the region.

English parent groups to join school boards in fight against Quebec law eliminating elected boards

All five school boards in West Quebec, both French and English, held a news conference Tuesday to express their concerns about Bill 86, which would eliminate elected school boards. (Radio-Canada)

The chair of the English school board serving West Quebec thinks Bill 86 should alarm English-speaking parents as well as the larger anglophone community in the region.

Bill 86 would replace elected school boards with mostly appointed councils. (CBC)

English parent groups met with the Ministry of Education Tuesday in Quebec City.

Rhonda Boucher — a West Quebec mother and president of the English Parents' Committee Association — said that when she left the meeting, ministry officials "knew we weren't happy."

"We're going to fight for survival. We have to because if this law passes, you're chipping away at our English rights. They're going to be gone," she said.

We're going to fight for survival. We have to because if this law passes, you're chipping away at our English rights. They're going to be gone.- Rhonda Boucher, president of English Parents' Committee Association

The Quebec English School Board Association has hired a lawyer and vows to launch a legal constitutional fight if Bill 86 is passed. The bill was tabled in the National Assembly in Quebec City Friday.

Bill 86 would eliminate elected school boards and replace them with mostly appointed councils including parents and community members, as well as teachers, principals and the director general of school boards.

West Quebec boards denounce Bill 86

The current elected boards in West Quebec held a news conference Tuesday to collectively denounce the bill.

Jim Shea, chair of the Western Québec School Board, says all anglophones should be concerned about the axing of elected boards. (Radio-Canada)

The chair of the Western Québec School Board, Jim Shea, said the issue for anglophones is particularly sensitive because he sees it as an attack on English minority rights.

The English language minority in Quebec, like the French minority outside Quebec, have a constitutional right to manage their own schools. Education Minister FrançoisBlais said those rights have not been infringed in the new law.

Blais said he would like the legislation passed in time for the 2016-17 school year.

New council mostly appointed

The new council would still be responsible for roles like bus transportation and educational services, but some issues would go to local school parents and teachers. The board would not necessarily have to be elected, though there is an option for some voting provisions.

Shea disagrees and calls the new law "a devastation."

... this is the last control of the institutions we have within the province, and I think we have to do everything we can to maintain that.- Jim Shea, Western Québec School Board chair

"If the English-speaking community loses control over its English language education, this is the last control of the institutions we have within the province, and I think we have to do everything we can to maintain that," he said.

Shea supports the legal action of the English boards association and encourages legal action by English members of the local community, though he said his board would not be devoting taxpayer funds to it.

Rhonda Boucher said while parents have been calling for voting rights on boards, the loss of English elected boards are seen as chipping away at English communities particularly in small regions of West Quebec, where schools are the heart of those English enclaves.

Without elected boards to push back against pressure to close smaller schools, or to share resources across their schools, the fear is that entire English communities could be suddenly more vulnerable.

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