Supreme Court decision is about protecting
English schooling as well as French
and Moira Bell
MONTREAL, Oct. 27 /CNW Telbec/ -
At some point, it has to be about us.
We are here to stay. We have been here for generations. We are a vital and effective ally in the protection and promotion of the French language in Quebec. We are an essential bridge to the rest of the country and to the entire continent. We have rights in law. We care about Quebec's future. We are Quebec's English public schools, and we are not the enemy.
Last week, Canada's Supreme Court struck down Bill 104, which, since 2002, further restricted access to English schooling in Quebec. The reaction from Premier Jean Charest, his Minister responsible for the French Language Charter and the Leader of the PQ Opposition was immediate, visceral and lacking in the most incidental of allusions to the potential effect of the decision on English-speaking Quebec and its public school network.
The Court has now given the government of Quebec one year to find a constitutionally acceptable solution. It has once again recognized - as we do - Quebec's special obligation to secure the future of the French language. But the Court has also identified and reconfirmed Quebec's legal obligation to find a balance between that security and the right of the minority-language community in this province to have a stable and healthy English public school system. The Court has instructed the Premier and his government to get back to work and better address this balance. The Quebec English School Boards Association has a right to be at the table when that work is done.
The framers of Bill 101 expressly allowed for the right of parents to attend private unsubsidized English schools as a way of later securing eligibility to English public schools in Quebec. They did not envision the need for Bill 104. Premiers who succeeded M. René Lévesque, from Bourassa to Parizeau, maintained this key compromise for a quarter-century.
Let's be clear: the elimination of Bill 104 would have the estimated impact of allowing about 500 additional students each year to attend English public schools in Quebec - a significant shot of oxygen to a school system that has gone from a quarter-million students a generation ago to under 110,000 today. Those students would have access to the best French second-language programs in the world. They would be graduating from our high schools fully equipped to contribute to the future of Quebec, in French as well as English. They would be part of the solution. At some point, English-speaking Quebec and its public school network must be invited to be part of the solution.
At some point, it has to be about us. The Quebec English School Boards Association and most particularly, three of its member boards: English Montreal, Lester B. Pearson and Riverside, are waiting to see that the eventual solution to the striking down of Bill 104 will allow them the chance to stabilize and to grow. Together, we are waiting to have confirmed by the Premier, by our fellow Quebecers, that our role in the future of Quebec is confirmed, protected and valued. We are expecting the prompt opportunity to meet with him to discuss this crucial question.
The next step is yours, Monsieur le Premier ministre.
Debbie Horrocks is the President of the Quebec English School Boards Association; Angela Mancini, Chair of the English Montreal School Board; Marcus Tabachnick, Chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board and Moira Bell, Chair of the Riverside School Board. Those three Boards are most directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling.
SOURCE Quebec English School Boards Association
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