Local protest alliance determined to mount Bill 40 court challenge

Québec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge believes Bill 40 will survive the Supreme Court,s scrutiny

As expected , APPELE – the local Alliance for the Promotion of Public English Language Education in Quebec recently announced that it’s taking the government to court in order to challenge Bill 40: the Legault administration’s new law that will amend the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance.

“When we appeared before the National Assembly, Education Minister Roberge stated candidly that (so-called) ‘Service Centre’ boards would be empty shells with nowhere near the powers and responsibilities of our democratically elected school boards,” said Alliance Chairman Geoff Kelley.

As the government’s new “Service Centres” are expected to do little more than provide a forum for both consultation and advice as opposed to providing management, the APPELE brief also mentions that even the minister confirmed that the Service Centres will not govern the province’s schools. While the bill does provide English school boards with the right to hold their own elections to decide who will sit on the Service Centre’s board, the brief denounces the fact that those elections are compromised by directives as to who can (or cannot) be a candidate to serve on a board with little to no authority to do anything about a child’s education.

Quebec Community Groups Network President Geoffrey Chambers, believe Roberge “is digging in his heels,” and despite his comments to the contrary, knows that his bill will not be able to withstand any kind of serious constitutional scrutiny. Aside from some 80 amendments that were made days prior to the bill’s being passed (via closure) in Quebec’s National Assembly, Kelley also maintains that Minister Roberge did nothing to address the shortcomings of Bill 40 in terms of minority rights.

“There are many areas in Bill 40 where powers that were at the school board level go back to the minister’s office, and we think that’s a direct challenge to the control and management guaranteed in section 23 of the Canadian charter,” said Kelley.

Some veteran observers have commented that the APPELE case will rest on jurisprudence established in 1990 when the Supreme Court ruled (in Mahé v Alberta) that official language minorities have a Charter right (Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms) to manage and control their own schools and school systems. As these rights have already been tried and tested by French–speaking minorities outside of Québec, Kelley believes APPELE had no choice but to launch a legal challenge against Bill 40.

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