The new head of the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) wants to forge a broad-based coalition to protect minority rights in the province.
“As part of the largest minority group in this province, my objective is to make sure that our rights are maintained,” Jennifer Maccarone told The Suburban after QESBA commissioners voted to elect her to chair the organization at its annual meeting in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Oct. 17.
Maccarone takes office just as Quebec Education Minister François Blais prepares to table legislation that will radically restructure the province’s school boards.
“Ultimately, we don’t want someone else to determine our destiny for us,” Maccarone said. “We want to have a hand in what the next step will be. I intend to keep the lines of communication open with the government and work with them to find a solution to maintain universal suffrage.”
She set the stage for a broadly based coalition of community groups.
“Talking about maintaining rights goes beyond just education,” Maccarone asserted. “Whatever happens next is not just a QESBA initiative. We’re talking Charter [of Rights and Freedoms of the Canadian constitution] and Article 23 [which provides minority language rights], not just from an education perspective but also from a minority group perspective.”
“Talking about maintaining rights is a much larger conversation. That’s not something that I can do on my own,” she admitted. “I want to build bridges because that is part of the solution going forward.”
Maccarone credited English Quebecers’ collaborative approach for their survival so far.
“At our annual meeting last weekend in Sherbrooke, our nine school boards shared our successes and our failures — and we learn more from our failures than our successes, to move forward with student success,” she said.
Maccarone has a strong mandate, with 87.8 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in the QESBA election, thanks to electronic balloting that permitted those who couldn’t make it to Sherbrooke to exercise their democratic franchise nonetheless.
“It would be great for school boards to be elected that way,” she enthused. “I’d love to see a voter turnout of 87.8 percent for school board elections.”