Allow me to link my recent school tax bill reduced by $91.35 from last year with The Suburban article : "Government decides to transfer two east-end EMSB schools over to French board." (July 3, 2019)

Both items are the result of actions taken by the relatively new Coalition Avenir Quebec government with the latter action creating quite a stir from the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).

The Association put out a press release on July 5: "Forced School Transfers Ill Considered," followed by an identical opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette on July 6, 2019: "EMSB correct in challenging school transfers."

Let's analyze:

The Quebec government invoked Article 477.1.1 of the Education Act, which gives it the power to transfer underused schools belonging to the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) to the bulging neighbouring French board which reportedly has no room for about 3000 students this September.

The EMSB applied for an injunction claiming the transfer violates Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which covers minority language education rights.

The Department of Justice of the Government of Canada has made available a document titled: "Section 23 - Minority language educational rights." It is divided into parts and sections.

Part 3 deals with 'Guaranteed rights.' which states: "Section 23 carries limits that require governments to do whatever is practical in the circumstances to preserve and promote minority language education...",

Two of those rights are "the right to facilities funded from public funds," and "the right to management and control."

Both rights contain the phrase: "Where the numbers warrant..."

That said, let's reel back to a CBC report on June 11, 2015: "Quebec proposes cutting maintenance budget of half-empty schools."

Accompanying the announcement by the Liberal government, the CBC indicated a list of schools that were less than 50 per cent capacity. Two of those schools were on the original list of schools to be transferred.

I believe the QESBA press release and op-ed serve no useful purpose except create bad feelings.

Crying wolf in this case, which should have been been taken care of much earlier by the EMSB, may backfire in the long run. Moving students from one school to another is not a violation of the intent of the Charter ; no student is being denied anything.

The joy of a victory of an injunction will last for a few months ; the problem of low capacity remains. A move, though, which increases capacity to another nearby school, not only assures stability for years , but also allows for more student services.

The EMSB should take the government's offer of $3.4 million and $570,000 to cover moving costs for both schools, and start packing.

Take the $$$, and run, EMSB, run.

Chris Eustace

Pierrefonds, QC

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