|EMSB CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW BILL 86|
MONTREAL, MARCH 22, 2016 – The English Montreal School Board presented its brief on proposed Bill 86: An Act to modify the organization and governance of school boards at Parliamentary hearings in Quebec City on March 22. If passed, the Bill will restructure the province’s school boards by limiting the public’s right to vote for school board commissioners.
The EMSB strongly opposes the proposed legislation. Chairman Angela Mancini, Vice-Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco and Commissioner Joe Ortona made the formal presentation. They called upon the government to withdraw draft Bill 86 and return to the drawing board by consulting with stakeholders across the public education sector to develop a democratic and legally-sound solution to encourage greater community participation in the management of Quebec’s school system.
Stated Ms. Mancini: “The withdrawal of Bill 86, coupled with a new draft law that proposes improvements to school board elections, would safeguard the constitutional rights of our minority language community to retain management and control over our schools, as well as protect the democratic rights of not only our community, but of all Quebeckers.”
The EMSB boasts the highest graduation success rate in Quebec amongst public school boards in both the Francophone and Anglophone systems. The 87.8 percent success rate that was recorded in 2014-2015 was more than five percent higher than the success rate recorded in 2013. “The EMSB is able to effectively manage its schools and deliver results due to the confidence invested in it by voters who freely and fairly elect their commissioner-representatives to the Board,” maintained Ms. Lo Bianco. “The legitimacy that comes from being elected via the process of universal suffrage cannot be underestimated, nor can the responsibilities and accountability that are incumbent on elected officials resulting from them being democratically chosen by a group of their peers.”
The EMSB fails to see how draft Bill 86 will even remotely improve learning outcomes for students, both in our Board and across Quebec’s education system. “On the contrary,” emphasized Mr. Ortona. “The EMSB believes that Bill 86 seriously threatens to destabilize the education system, to such a degree that the draft law itself may jeopardize student success by dismantling a robust framework put in place by the EMSB to encourage and facilitate high academic achievement.”
The EMSB is recommending that democratically-elected school boards be maintained to safeguard the Anglophone minority community’s constitutional rights to manage and control its schools. Parent Commissioners should be legally vested with all of the rights, responsibilities and duties of commissioners elected through universal suffrage, including the right to vote.
Furthermore, the EMSB recommends that school board elections be opened to online and mail-in ballots, in addition to polling stations, to facilitate voter participation in the democratic process. These elections should be held concurrently with municipal elections to facilitate the potential for voters to exercise their constitutional rights.
Ms. Mancini has already welcomed newly appointed Education Minister Sébastien Proulx, and wished him well in his new duties. “His arrival in this portfolio comes at a critical time for the future of the public education system in Quebec,” she said.
The EMSB delegation to the National Assembly was backed by student and parent supporters, as well as some members of the Council of Commissioners.
Michael J. Cohen