Bill 40: English school boards win in Court of Appeal
Quebec's highest court has upheld a stay granted last month to English school boards that are challenging the provincial government's attempt to abolish them.
Thursday's ruling by the Court of Appeal prevents the law known as Bill 40 from being applied to Quebec's English school system until the case against the legislation can be heard on its merits.
In February, the National Assembly passed Bill 40, which abolishes school boards and replaces them with service centres. It also eliminates elections in the francophone sector.
The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) was one of several groups that sought an injunction in May, arguing that the law violates minority language education rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In August, Superior Court Justice Sylvain Lussier noted that English-language school boards, "spokespersons for the minority, will suffer irreparable harm" if the law were to come into force now. According to him, it will first have to be decided "whether the law takes into account and responds to the concerns of the English-speaking minority."
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal upheld Justice Lussier's decision. It ruled that "the interest in this case is in the protection of official language minority rights rather than in the implementation of Bill 40 in the English-language education sector, at least until a decision on the merits of the case is rendered."
It notes that the replacement of school boards with service centres may "constitute a significant transfer of the power to manage and control the English linguistic minority education system to the Minister." The Act also appears to prevent many members of the English-speaking community from running for elective positions on the boards of directors of the new service centres.
The QESBA welcomed this ruling, which allows elections in English school boards to be held in November under the old rules.
The Court of Appeal clarified that the entire Act is suspended only for English-language school boards. "In this sense, the vast majority of the effects covered by the Act are normally taking their course," the judges wrote.
[Local Journalism Initiative]