Statement from Marcus Tabachnick, President of the Quebec English School Boards Association, on today's Court of Appeals ruling on Bill 104

    MONTREAL, Aug. 30 /CNW Telbec/ - QESBA will have to study this morning's
ruling in detail. That said, our initial reaction is one of frustration and
disappointment, most particularly on behalf of the 53 families whose children
have already waited five years for an answer on their children's rights to
English schooling.
    "Yes, the promotion and protection of Quebec's French language is a
legitimate priority; and a responsibility we all share, but the Courts, the
government and the larger Quebec society surely have a role as well in
securing the future of Quebec's English school system. The Court of Appeals
has ruled that the further restrictions on English school access imposed by
Bill 104 are not legal. Sadly, a judge today has ruled that this decision is
without effect until an appeal to the Supreme Court is heard.
    "At the least, the 53 families who were involved in this case deserve the
chance to move forward immediately and have their children start English
school this week. Furthermore, QESBA estimates that the over-all effect of
last week's ruling might be somewhere in the order of 500 additional English
school student registrations per year. That number would be extremely
important to our school network...and of negligible over-all impact to
Quebec's French school system.
    "QESBA is extremely unhappy with the message we cannot help but receive
from today's ruling: and that message is that our government has very limited
responsibility with respect to supporting the future of English public
schooling in this province.
    "We ask all Quebecers to reflect on the historic and on-going role our
English public schools have played in preparing the students in our system to
live and work in a changing Quebec. Our school system has developed the
world's model for second-language teaching, with French immersion programs
developed right here. Our English schools prepare graduates to live and work
in French as well as English.
    "Our school boards have gone far beyond legislated requirements to ensure
that each and every student gets the chance to master the French language. We
are allies in the promotion of French in Quebec, not adversaries. But we also
have our sacred, historical and constitutionally protected responsibility to
safeguard a strong English public school network in Quebec. We expect this
government and the other parties represented in the National Assembly to
respect and support that responsibility.
    "The presiding judge apparently suggested that it would be a major
logistical difficulty to allow the 53 appellants to be registered in English
schools. That's not accurate. Our school boards are well-equipped to move
promptly and efficiently to register these children.
    "Some have asked why QESBA has not directly intervened before the Courts
on this matter. Our Board of Directors, which brings together elected
commissioners from all nine English Boards, has consistently agreed that we
can better exercise our influence through political channels. We have
consistently worked to open up a dialogue with successive governments on
access issues; we have worked, with some success to improve administrative
procedures governing access as well. For example, working through these
channels actually permitted us to make sure some further restrictions
originally proposed in Bill 104 were removed before the law was adopted.
Pursuant to school board elections, a new Board of Directors of QESBA will be
convened. That new Board will be charged with setting future QESBA positions
on access matters."

For further information:

For further information: Kim Hamilton, Communications and Special
Projects Coordinator, (514) 849-5900, ext. 225, Cell: (514) 919-3894

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Quebec English School Boards Association

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