The Education Ministry’s report on the EMSB has called it “dysfunctional” and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has said “everything is on the table including trusteeship.” We would urge the Minister to tread carefully in this matter.
There is a role for the Ministry to,play but a role that stops short of trusteeship. That latter word, in the current climate, smacks of Quebec takeover of Canadian constitutionally protected English boards. It would not be right, legal nor in the best interests of the students.
The political infighting within the EMSB clearly needs mediation. And that is a role the Ministry can be helpful in. It can send in mediators and consultants with whom the EMSB commissioners and administrators would have to work with, but not under. Their role would not be unlike those of mediators in major labour disputes that affect the national interest. We have seen it used successfully in transport union negotiations.
The Minister should not forget that despite the warring factions, the EMSB under Chair Angela Mancini has maintained its record as the most successful board — French or English — in the province in terms of graduation rates and test scores. Additionally, at a time when Premier Legault is rightfully trying to reassure the million strong non-francophone minority that it’s place within Quebec is secure, any move that is seen to eliminate the powers or existence of the EMSB as an independent entity would make his other efforts all in vain. With MNA Christopher Skeete, who is responsible for the Anglo Secretariat and reports directly to the premier, touring the province in meetings with non-francophone communities large and small, overreach on this file would be an unsurmountable barrier to any success he may achieve.
The report itself comes at an unfortunate time. The EMSB has taken the Ministry to court on the constitutionality of closing English schools. This report is seen in some quarters as part of a counterattack.
The report is also filled with subjective language. As an example, it claims the structure of the board shows a “lack of maturity.” No one knows what that means. That is not the Minister’s fault, but is typical bureaucrat-speak.
Another glaring mistake in the presentation of the report is that it was released to the media before it was even sent to the Board’s council. The EMSB has asked for a meeting with the Minister and is still awaiting an answer. Indeed, the Board has asked for some kind of instructions from the minister as to what he expects is to be done about the report. No answer has been received to that request either.
EMSB commissioner Julien Feldman has called the report “a bit exaggerated” and he was surprised by Roberge’s reaction to the findings. The Minister would be wise to tread softly and heed Mr. Feldman’s words.