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Quebec Education Act violates rights of English-speaking community, says Superior Court

Decision declares amendments under Bill 40 unconstitutional, affirms minority language education rights of Quebec anglophones

Charles Dickson
Pontiac August 6, 2023
In what is being seen as a win for the minority rights of Quebec anglophones, a decision rendered by the Quebec Superior Court last Wednesday has ruled as unconstitutional parts of Quebec’s Education Act that had been amended by Bill 40.
Under Bill 40, adopted by Legault’s CAQ government in 2020, the Education Act eliminated school boards and transferred their decision-making powers to the Minister of Education. Following an intervention by the Quebec English School Board, implementation of the amendments was suspended pending the outcome of a review of the constitutionality of Bill 40 by the Superior Court.
In his decision last week, Superior Court Justice Sylvain Lussier wrote that the Government of Quebec must take into account the needs and preoccupations of the English-speaking community, and that this requires appropriate consultations on proposed legislation which, in the case of Bill 40, were found to be inadequate.
Judge Lussier also rejected the narrow definition of who could vote in school board elections and serve as commissioners. Under the Bill 40 amendments, only the parents of children currently in English schools were eligible to do either. Last week’s ruling expands eligibility to all citizens who have the right to register their children in English schools, whether those children are of school age or not, as well as to those who currently have or have ever had the right to do so.
The judge also struck down other Bill 40 provisions such as the appointment of unelected staff members on school boards and that budgetary measures could be sent from the education ministry directly to schools, bypassing school boards.
In August 2020, the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) and other applicants challenged the amendments affecting the governance of Quebec’s English school boards contained in Bill 40: An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance.
They argued the reforms violated Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants parents belonging to a province’s linguistic minority the right to education in their language anywhere in Canada.
“The court considers that several of the articles covered by this action infringe upon the rights of Article 23 and that these infringements are not justified,” wrote Justice Lussier in the Court’s decision.
In a letter to the editor of THE EQUITY (page 4), West Quebec School Board Commissioner Greg Graham describes the judgement as a rare victory for minorities in this province and says he hopes “the next school board elections in a couple of years will see multiple candidates for every position and a high voter turnout.”
With files from the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).

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