Bill 40 is now law.

The provincial government used closure last Friday night to force a vote and end debate on the controversial new legislation that will replace school boards with service centres, eliminating elected commissioners and replacing them with parents, administrators and community representatives.

English councils have until November, when parents and others will take over from the status quo, which currently consists of elected and appointed commissioners legislating and determining policy.

French school board commissioners have been dismissed but will be paid until the end of summer as they work towards the transition.

The English Parents Committee Association of Quebec (EPCA), which represents eight of Quebec’s nine English language school boards, deplored the lack of comprehensive widespread consultations with the population and said that this major error must be addressed as the province moves forward with its plan. “We need to be sure the minister puts his money and resources were his agenda is” said EPCA chair Katherine Korakakis. “If parents are to carry this forward then we need to make sure they do so with all the support resources and guidance the minister can muster and that we deserve. He must take advantage of this opportunity now to work with us and give us the best they can offer and nothing less.”

The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board Parents’ Committee wants information sessions to be launched without delay. “As we move towards Board of Directors elections on Nov 1, we implore Minister (Jean-François) Roberge and his colleagues to act swiftly in providing clarity” according to PC chair Adam Gordon. “Too much of Bill 40 has been left to interpretation, leaving tremendous uncertainty. We, the parental community, cannot undo the passing of this Bill, but we are demanding stronger support, education and inclusion moving forward.”

Ultimately, parents will be responsible for governance, but questions remain says Korakakis. “Will we be exploring other methods of voting? How will we increase voter participation? For parents to be involved in governance they need support from beginning to end.” Gordon agrees, saying that the passage of the law “needs to be followed up with immediate training after elections. Our parents must not be left in limbo to navigate a new system alone. This is the only way to move forward without placing undue risk on student success.”

Much of the last few days has been coloured by bluster and outrage, many criticizing the government over its use of closure, some sitting commissioners – both appointed and elected – throwing barbs about ‘fascism’, calling it an end of democracy, even questioning the values of the Premier François Legault and Education Minister Roberge, as well as implying that parents are incapable of doing the work they do.

A parent from a Montreal francophone parent committee told The Suburban while working to draft a statement denouncing the closure but urging cooperation to begin with parents immediately on the transition, that commissioners unsuccessfully attempted to influence the public missive by including denunciations about inequality with the English system and local democratic rights.

Some commissioners are boasting that they are well-informed and well-financed for the court fights to come, and indeed, the Quebec English School Boards Association lobby group has collected funds from member boards for that purpose, described in school board resolutions passed by commissioners who are about to be eliminated, as “promotion of English language education in its current form.”

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