'It will be no': Quebec quick to deny EMSB permission to apply for federal funding to challenge Bill 21

The Quebec government was quick to deny a request by the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) for permission to apply for federal funding to challenge the province's controversial secularism law.

The EMSB stated Thursday that it would ask the Legault government for permission one week after the board announced it had rescinded its funding agreement with the Court Challenges Program, which would have helped it fund its court challenge against Bill 21.

Within the hour, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge had a firm reply, tweeting, simply, 'It will be no.'

Ce sera non. #Assnat #CAQ https://t.co/edJzgOM9md

— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) February 13, 2020

Roberge followed up with a statement, saying, "There is no question of following up on this request. It would simply be absurd to allow federal funds to be used to challenge laws duly passed by the elected officials of the Quebec National Assembly," adding that the EMSB "has already wasted more than $370,000 to challenge Bill 21, the same amount of money that should have gone to student services. It is shameful."

Roberge was blunt, adding, "The EMSB commissioners must pull themselves together and remember their mission: to work for the success of the students."

The EMSB issued a statement Thursday, detailing its reasoning for applying for federal and why it is asking the province for permission.

"All the EMSB wants is to be allowed to avail itself of all funding sources at the disposal of all minority groups in order to have its constitutional cases heard and judged in a Quebec court," the statement read.

"It must be highlighted that it is counter-intuitive (if not completely nonsensical) that a minority language school board like the EMSB should have to ask the government, against whom its court actions have been launched, for permission to accept federal grant monies."

EMSB SAYS IT WAS FORCED TO RESCIND FUNDING

The board now says it was forced to rescind the initial federal funding after a complaint was made insisting it had contravened Section 3.11 of the Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil Exécutif.

The provision states: "No municipal body or school body may, without the prior authorization of the government, enter into any agreement with another government in Canada or one of its departments or government agencies, or with a federal public agency."

The EMSB says following the grievance, its council of commissioners needed time to decide how to proceed with the challenge.

"While the EMSB is under partial trusteeship, the council continues to oversee legal matters pertaining to English minority rights," it noted, adding it still plans to see the challenge "to the end."

Officials argue it is unfair that a school board should have a difficult time seeking funds for its constitutional cases against the Quebec government.

"All the EMSB wants is to be allowed to avail itself of all funding sources at the disposal of all minority groups in order to have its constitutional cases heard and judged in a Quebec court," the board stated.

Quebec Premier François Legault has previously urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cut any federal funding to the EMSB for its challenges to Bill 21.

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has also spoken out against the challenge, saying it's not right that Quebec taxpayer money should go towards fighting a law "most people" in the province support.

The purpose of the Court Challenges Program of Canada is "to provide financial assistance for important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada's Constitution."