A group of Commission scolaire de Laval commissioners came to last week’s city council meeting asking for its support opposing the Quebec government’s Bill 40, which will replace elected school boards with service centres.
They didn’t get it.
CSDL Chair Louise Lortie and colleagues spoke in support of local democracy, decision-making and the importance of women in governance, and Sainte-Rose commissioner Jonathan Dale Woo suggested that the law is discriminatory.
Having been schooled in English himself, he and his partner could choose where to send their children: “We chose to send them to French schools,” he told council, adding “when I think of Bill 40, I remind myself that the anglophone community has constitutional rights regarding their school network, that francophones don’t have that, and I ask myself if it is frankly discriminatory (not) treating the francophone majority the same way.
“School democracy,” said the school commissioner, “should not depend on mother tongue.”
Woo did not include years of inequitable school taxation on anglophones on his territory as discriminatory, nor the generation-long linguistic chokehold on English network enrolment by successive Quebec governments, or the attempt by the preceding Liberal government to abolish boards and specifically, an EMSB by-election solely to save money before its own board-eliminating legislation was aborted.
“We’re counting on your help” said Lortie, who agreed that boards need many changes.
Mayor Marc Demers said “It’s an important societal debate for sure, and we agree that parity of women in public life is important and helps everyone win. But the issue has not been resolved yet and it’s hard to comment on it,” he said. “Obviously, deciding to elect the CAQ that openly talked about it in their program, some can claim that democracy did play a role. That said, it’s not irreversible; it is an issue…a very important issue…I have a difficulty taking a position, maybe as it unfolds and we get more information it will be easier to take a position.”
Official Opposition leader–and retired school principal–Michel Trottier declared support for the interveners and introduced a motion to debate the issue next month.