The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB), which is the English-language school board serving Argenteuil is pleased with a court ruling issued on August 3, which strikes down parts of changes to Québec’s education laws made more than three years ago.
Bill 40, which was adopted at the National Assembly on February 8, 2020, converted French school boards into school service centres, resulting in the abolition of Councils of Commissioners, replaced with board of directors. The Québec English School Boards Association (QESBA) was awarded a stay of legislation, therefore making Bill 40 inapplicable to the nine English school boards until the case was heard on its merits. The Québec Superior Court’s extensive 125-page judgment has found that many provisions of Bill 40 are unconstitutional and infringe upon section 23 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, safeguarding minority language education rights.
“This is undeniably a victory for the English-speaking community of Québec. We are incredibly happy to see our rights to control and manage our schools acknowledged and honored. Though it has been a long journey, the fight was undoubtedly worthwhile.” said SWLSB Chair Paolo Galati.
“We sincerely hope that the Québec government will refrain from appealing the judgment so that we can continue with our mission and wholeheartedly focus on providing the best education for our students.” added Galati.
According to the SWLSB, some of the elements of the law declared unconstitutional by the Québec Superior Court are:
- Eligibility requirements to be elected as a member of the board of directors of an English-language school service centre, including the requirement for parent representatives to also sit on the governing board, the requirement for community representatives to meet certain profile requirements and run in the entire territory of the board, etc.;
- The requirement that only parent representatives can become Chair or Vice-Chair;
- The presence of unelected staff members on the Council of Commissioners;
- The transfer of the Chair’s role as spokesperson to the Director General;
- The exclusion of commissioners from the development of Commitment-to-Success Plans;
- The establishment of budgetary measures that are sent directly from the Ministry to schools, by-passing the school board; and
- The absence of a rightsholder requirement to vote in school board elections.
The SWLSB believes the court ruling highlights the significance of safeguarding minority language education rights and preserving democratic representation in educational governance.
With a workforce of more than 2,000 employees, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board is the third largest English school board of the Province of Québec and boasts a graduation rate of 88.3 per cent. Its schools in Argenteuil include Grenville Elementary School, Laurentian Elementary School in Lachute, and Laurentian Regional High School in Lachute. Its territory comprises the administrative regions of Laval, Laurentides and Lanaudière. The school board provides preschool, elementary, secondary, adult education, and vocational training services to over 14,000 students in 35 schools and 4 centres, as well as business training services.