The EMSB is taking Quebec to court over controversial school transfers

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The English Montreal School Board is bringing a constutional challenge against the Quebec government over the forced transfer of two English schools into the French system.

In July, a judge blocked the EMSB's bid to keep General Vanier Elementary School and John Paul I Junior High School from being transferred to the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Ile (CSPI), after Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge determined it was necessary due to overcrowding in the French board.

In an announcement made Tuesday, EMSB chair Angela Mancini said the board's lawyers have now filed a second court case, asking a judge to decide on the constitutionality of the transfers.

"The EMSB is concerned that similar school transfers will keep happening in the years to come – and for these reasons, the EMSB is bringing a constitutional challenge before the Quebec Superior Court," said Mancini. 

Referring to the initial injunction, Mancini said, "while the judge stated that our case had merit, she was reluctant to not move forward with the transfers in part because there was little time to prepare for the next school year."

The EMSB and other anglophone rights groups say the transfer violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, giving the English-speaking minority community the right to manage its own school system.

"Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms confers on the representatives of the English-speaking minority of Quebec the exclusive authority to make decisions relating to the minority language instruction and facilities," the board's minutes from a Sept. 4 meeting, signed by Secretary-General of the ESMB Nathalie Lauziere, read.

The school board feels that the Supreme Court of Canada "has held that management and control over educational facilities by representatives of the official language minority is vital to ensure that the minority language and culture flourish."

In addition, the board argues Roberge's stated intention to abolish all school boards "will have a significant negative impact on the Charter-protected rights and the vitality of Quebec's English-speaking minority" and lessen the quality of English education.

The government isn't budging.

"We plan to introduce a bill to improve school governance this fall and it's within its legal right to do," said Education Ministry spokesperson Francis Bouchard in a statement. "EMSB commissioners should spend less time playing politics and more time focusing on the success of its students."

EMSB councillor Joe Ortona is also standing firm.


"No government says I'm adopting a law that's unconstitutional, but laws have been struck down before many, many times over constitutional issues," said Ortona. "We pay the school tax, we pay the taxes out of our salary that fund education and yet we would have no say in how the schools are run, in anything in the curriculum… it's a form of taxation without representation, no doubt."

Students from John Paul I High School have begun their academic year at Laurier Macdonald High School, and students and staff from General Vanier Elementary are attending Pierre de Coubertin.