Stay on education reform upheld
--- Quebec government faces another legal defeat on Bill 40
The Quebec Court of Appeal has upheld a stay issued earlier this month to English school boards challenging the province’s education reform known as Bill 40. This means that the suspension of the act remains in effect on the English side.
In a decision issued Thursday, Justice Benoît Moore refused to grant the government of Quebec’s leave to appeal the August 10 decision by Superior Court Justice Lussier, who recognized that there was a serious debate about respect for the decision-making autonomy of the English-speaking minority in educational matters. However, Justice Moore did set September 14 as a date for a panel of judges from Quebec’s top court to review the matter. In the same decision, Moore also refused to lift the stay granted by Justice Lussier, deferring this issue as well to the September 14 hearing date.
The Quebec Government had filed a leave to appeal the stay of Bill 40 and furthermore, requested that the Judge immediately overturn the original judgement on the stay. This is the second reversal for the Attorney General of Quebec in this case in the last two weeks.
Bill 40, which was passed in February after the Legault government invoked closure, abolishes Quebec school boards in favour of service centres. Under the law, English school boards retain the right to hold democratic elections and were given until November to shift to service centres.
However, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) and other groups filed an injunction in May, challenging the governance plan on the basis that it didn’t respect Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The section guarantees minority language educational rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.
On August 10, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled in favour of the groups seeking to stay the application of the law in English school boards until a full legal challenge could be heard. Afterwards, Premier François Legault had vowed to contest the ruling, saying the legislation is “well-founded.”
QESBA welcomed the ruling Thursday and called on the government to postpone school board elections set for November.
“Our community has been steadfast in the defence of our rights to manage and control our minority language educational institutions under Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Dan Lamoureux, QESBA President. “This is bigger than those of us who are here now. We are fighting for the vitality and future of our minority community to benefit this generation and those to come. Given that the implementation of Bill 40 continues to be suspended for English school boards until at least September 14, the holding of school elections on November 1 becomes totally impractical. We once again call upon the Government of Quebec to postpone the November 1 school elections until 2021 and to extend the mandates of current commissioners until those elections are held. This is the only respectful and reasonable response to the current situation,” he added.
A court date for the first hearing on the constitutionality of the legislation has not yet been set.
[Local Journalism Initiative]