APPELE-Quebec: no consultation, rights violated
Anglo leaders to fight school board reforms
On April 25, community leaders and organizations of various English-speaking Quebecers formed a provincial alliance to support elected school boards. The Coaliton Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government is considering restructuring school board elections and management.
The Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec (APPELE-Québec), is a coalition to combat the government’s Bill 86, changing the structure of school system management.
Ex-MNA Geoffrey Kelley, chair of APPELE-Québec, says that legislation threatens an Anglophone constitutional right and is “being prepared without any formal input from the English-speaking community”.
Much of the CAQ’s concern is based on expensive and historically dismal voter turnout for school board elections; besides the constitutional issue, the new group will argue that school boards play a significant role in supporting their communities.
Mr Kelley added that “The future of our children in this province depends on our capacity to transmit our language and culture, including our attachment to Quebec, to future generations.”
“If the government is planning a complete overhaul of our education system, it should embark on a formal consultation process and invite input from parents, educators, and community stakeholders,” said Kelley.
The group wants the government to discuss proposals to boost school board election participation. They want a province-wide consultation, based on a white paper outlining problems and solutions. This, they claim, would allow the government to propose an evidence-based reform plan.
First proposed by the Liberals in 2016, Bill 86 was the Couillard government’s proposal to end school board elections. It was never brought to a vote in the National Assembly.
The Liberal plan would have replaced elected school commissioners by new school councils made up of parent representatives, staff members, and community members. Membership would be selected in several ways: parent reps elected by parents and staff members appointed.
The Liberal bill was panned by both English and French school boards across the province. To many, it also seemed to violate Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which stipulates that all English-speaking Quebecers have a right to manage and control their schools, whether they have children or not in the system.
However, public disinterest in school elections continued, and the bill re-emerged in the CAQ’s electoral platform – alongside Bill 5 that establishes pre-kindergarten classes throughout Quebec, “regardless of (parents’) economic background”, effective the beginning of the 2020–2021 school year.
The CAQ’s proposal, which has yet to be presented to the National Assembly, is said to abolish all school boards, French and English, in the province and replace them with “service centres” without elected representatives. So far, how the boards of directors for the service centres will be selected has not been announced.
Speaking at a technology-in-education conference in Montreal, April 25, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge stated that his government will respect the constitutional rights of Anglophone and minority communities. He charged that groups opposing the changes are engaging in “scare tactics” and that, when those groups finally get an opportunity to read the complete bill, “they will understand their rights will be respected.” No date for this or the Bill’s introduction has been set.