Following last week’s announcement about the CAQ administration’s plan to follow through with its plans to abolish Québec’s school boards, Québec English School Board Association (QESBA) director Russell Copeman told The Suburban that he expects the association to lead the judicial fight against the bill.
“Not only is it an offense against local democracy, but the CAQ’s new bill (Bill #40) clearly doesn’t meet the Supreme Court’s criteria under section 23 of the Canadian Charter,” said Copeman. “If it goes to court, I have no doubt the QESBA will lead the charge.”
While Québec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge described Bill 40 as a radical plan to reform public education in Québec, the new law is expected to abolish local school boards in order to replace them with so-called ‘service centers’ made up of 16 people – essentially volunteers as they will not be paid for their service. Although board members will be paid $100 to participate in their monthly meetings, the money is little more than pocket change when compared to the responsibility that defines a responsible commissioner’s work. While the law will allow the province’s 9 English language public school boards to elect their commissioners (as usual) in order to accommodate minority language community rights to operate and manage their own schools, the ‘service centers’ will still be responsible to the minister and his (her) bureaucracy who will effectively have the last word about public education in Québec. According to Copeman, it’s the end of local school board democracy because he doubts that the new service centers will have the kind of power and responsibility to be able to provide both the oversight and the scrutiny that’s required to manage and operate an efficient school board.
“It’s not realistic,” said Copeman.”The truth is that they’re creating a vacuum that will eliminate any serious oversight, and it won’t be long before the bureaucrats move in to take over the schools.”
As the EMSB (English Montreal School Board) recently set a new record (92.4%) for having the highest success rate among all of Québec’s school boards, NDG school commissioner Joseph Lalla still cannot understand why the government would wish to destroy a successful school board with such enviable results. Others, including a massive majority of English-speaking Quebecers agree as a recent Léger marketing poll indicates that 84% of them believe that eliminating English language school boards will effectively jeopardize their minority language rights.
“It’s a serious assault against our school boards and our democracy,” said Copeman, “...and there’s not much time left to do anything about it.”
Based upon his own experience in Québec’s National Assembly, he believes the CAQ will once again use closure to ram the bill through the Assembly, and Bill 40 will become the law before the end of the session and just in time for the new year.
Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand called on Montreal Executive Committee member Rosannie Filato to have the city’s Public Safety commission hold public hearings in light of a “damning” report demonstrating systemic discrimination by the SPVM.
The recently released report says visible minorities, such as young Arabs, members of the black community and indigenous women, are much more likely to be stopped by police than whites.
“If the explosive nature of this report does not convince your administration of the need to take immediate action, Montrealers will conclude that you have neglected your responsibilities for civilian oversight of law enforcement,” Rotrand wrote.
More specifically, the Snowdon councillor detailed that the report, which studied arrests made between 2014 and 2017, showed that a member of the black community is 4.2 times more likely to be stopped and questioned than a white person, 4.6 times more for an indigenous person and 4.2 times more for a member of the Arab community.
As well, indigenous women were found to be stopped and questioned 11 times more than a white women, and young blacks are five times more likely to be arrested than young whites.
“This report was a big shock for Montrealers who are demanding immediate action, and so far we have not seen any,” Rotrand wrote. “I appreciate that Mayor Valérie Plante and you are following this file. As indicated, you share the shock and the indignation of Montrealers, however no plan for immediate action has been announced.”
The councillor added that members of visible minority groups have asked him to put forward an emergency motion at the Oct. 22 Montreal council meeting on this issue.
“But I would prefer that your administration — with the support of the official opposition — would announce in the coming days a series of measures to deal with this. The battle against racial profiling should be of concern to all of us and requires a unanimous non-partisan response. “