Application filed for class-action over illegal Sport-Études fees

An application to authorize a class-action lawsuit against Quebec school boards over illegal school fees was filed at the Montreal courthouse Monday.

The suit seeks the reimbursement of all sums, plus interest, paid by parents for their children to enrolled in "sport-études," "arts-études" and other specialized programs (PPPs).

"As such, the Applicant claims punitive damages in the amount of $100.00 per class member for the unlawful and intentional breach by the Defendants of the principle of 'free public education' provided for under the Charter and to attempt to discriminate on the basis of a social condition, since not all parents could afford registering their children in PPPs," reads the application.

Most specialized programs cost parents between $0 to $500 per student per year, but others, such as ice hockey and tennis can cost a lot more.

According to filing, the man launching the suit had a son registered in a sport-étude program at a High School that is part of the Lester B. Pearson School Board from 2016 to 2018. During that time the Applicant had to pay a total of $9,454 in fees for the Grade 7 and 8 academic years.

Last week Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said those fees are illegal and always have been.

During a parliamentary committee discussion he said that schools without "240 status" that have been charging parents the extra fees for specialized programs have been doing so against the Education Act. He added it's possible no one knew, or previous governments did know and decided to keep quiet.

A 240 status school is an institution established under Section 240 of the Quebec Education Act for the purposes of a specific educational project or specialisation.

With hundreds of thousands of parents registering a child in a paid PPP each year, the suit alleges schools have collected more than $1.2 billion over the past three years. During the May 8 parliamentary committee discussion one speaker said the PPPs cost members approximately $400 million per year.

According to the filing the Applicant learned of the illegal fees by reading the CJAD800 news article published the day after the parliamentary committee discussion.