The English Montreal School Board has lost its legal bid for an injunction to block the transfer of two schools to a French-community controlled board.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge used special cabinet powers to transfer John Paul I and General Vanier schools to the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe de l'Ile.
The EMSB went to court seeking an emergency injunction to delay the transfer until another school year, but on Monday a Quebec Superior Court judge denied the EMSB's request for a judicial stay to stop the transfer.
In her ruling, Justice Dominique Poulin decided that the school transfer was considered a serious legal question and that the EMSB would face a serious loss.
However the judge ruled there was no urgency in the EMSB's request, and that the CSPI would also face harm if the schools were not transferred.
Poulin said the court didn't have enough evidence at its disposal to evaluate the extent of the harm to the English-language community that would be caused by the relocations. That evaluation would be done during the course of the court process, she added.
"The vitality of the linguistic community of the EMSB could ultimately be re-established, at least in the future, following a judgment on the merits, where appropriate," she said.
The ruling does note that the provincial government did not make a serious attempt to consult the English-speaking community, and that the CSPI had no incentive to negotiate because of the government's telegraphing of its decision.
EMSB chair Angela Mancini said that the board will look at other legal options because the transfer appears to violate section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
"There are a lot of laws that make it such that our schools may not be as full as the French side," she said.
“This denial of the stay / injunction is in no way an indication of the validity and substance of our case as a minority English language community. We have constitutional rights. And as such, we are considering all legal options available to us.”
The court decision means the two schools will be transferred to the CSPI and the French Board will begin teaching classes there this fall.
Roberge's spokesperson, Francis Bouchard, said the minister is "rejoicing" at the court's ruling.
"Our government took the difficult but necessary decision to order the transfer in consideration of the interest of all Quebec students," Bouchard said in an email. "In light of this judgment, we call on the EMSB to begin the administrative steps in order to transfer the schools."
Meanwhile the EMSB be will begin implementing its plan B for the affected students.
That means students from John Paul I high school will go to Laurier MacDonald high school, and students and staff from General Vanier elementary will go to Pierre de Coubertin.
The board will discuss these plans at a meeting on Tuesday evening.
- With files from CTV Montreal's Amanda Kline and The Canadian Press