Appeals court sides with English school boards fighting Quebec law that abolishes them

MONTREAL — Quebec's highest court has upheld a stay granted last month to English school boards that are challenging the provincial government's attempt to abolish them.

Thursday's ruling by the Court of Appeal prevents the law known as Bill 40 from being applied to Quebec's English school system until the case against the legislation can be heard on its merits.

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The province adopted the law in February, which abolishes school boards and replaces them with service centres. It also eliminates elections in the French-language system for members of those service centres.

The Quebec English School Boards Association was among several groups that filed for an injunction in May, arguing the law violates minority language education rights guaranteed in the charter.

A Superior Court Justice stayed the law's application to English school boards in August, concluding there was a debate to be had on the English-speaking minority's right to make decisions in matters of education. The judge added that the school boards could suffer irreparable damage if the law was allowed to come into effect.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal agreed, writing that the public interest is better served by protecting linguistic minority rights over implementing the law in the English educational sector — at least until the full case can be argued in court.

The panel of justices wrote that Bill 40 appears to transfer control from the English school boards to the province, and that the legislation appears to limit many members of the English-speaking community from seeking elected positions on the boards of the new service centres.

" ... in this case the public interest leans in favour of protecting the rights of the official linguistic minority rather than implementing Bill 40 in the English educational sector, at least until there is a judgment on the merits," the appeals court ruled.

The Quebec English School Boards Association welcomed the decision, which allows school board elections planned for November to proceed under the old model rather than under the rules established in Bill 40.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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