Bill 40, an ‘Act to amend the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance’, created controversy when it was first introduced in Quebec’s National Assembly by Education Minister Jean-François Roberge last October 2019. It was passed through on February 8th 2020, when the government invoked closure, leaving no time for the opposition parties to debate the Bill. The act would put an end to school boards in the province and replace them with ‘Service Centres’, taking away ‘a minority community’s rights to manage and control their institutions as prescribed in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’. However, Bill 40 has now been put on hold for the province’s nine English school boards – temporarily suspended until a final court ruling is made.
This past Monday August 10th, a Quebec Superior Court Justice, ruled that the plan raised serious questions pertaining to the constitutionality of Bill 40. He also ruled that the disappearance of English-language school boards ‘constituted irreparable harm’. It was last May 15th, when the QESBA (Quebec English School Boards Association) along with co-applicants Adam Gordon (Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board Parent Committee Chairman) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, had filed for an ‘interlocutory injunction and judicial review’ in Quebec Superior Court.
Dan Lamoureux, President of the QESBA, said in a statement on their website, “We are very pleased with the decision today which has the effect of suspending the application of Bill 40 to English school boards pending a decision on the merits of the case. Given the very limited amount of time our boards have to organize school elections, scheduled for November 1st, we are hopeful that the government will not appeal this decision.” The province’s French school boards, now called service centres, chose not to contest Bill 40 and therefore will no longer hold elections for Board of Director positions.
Russell Copeman, the QESBA’s executive director (former borough Mayor/City Councillor and Quebec MNA for CDN/NDG), said “Justice Lussier recognized in his ruling there were serious constitutional arguments that were raised, and going ahead with the implementation of the Bill until such a time when the court has ruled on its constitutionality would represent irreparable harm to the applicants.” In reaction to the ruling, Minister Jean-François Roberge said during a news conference, “We are fully confident that we respect the right of the English community to manage and control their network. We will address this with our lawyers.”