STATEMENT BY DEBBIE HORROCKS, PRESIDENT OF THE QUEBEC ENGLISH SCHOOL BOARDS, SYLVIA LO BIANCO, VICE-CHAIR OF THE ENGLISH MONTREAL SCHOOL BOARD, AND MARCUS TABACHNICK, CHAIR OF THE LESTER B. PEARSON SCHOOL BOARD ON THE SOLUTION PROPOSED BY THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION ON BILL 104
Montreal, June 2st, 2010 – Our English public school network prepares each of its students for a rich and productive future in Quebec. We view ourselves as vital partners in building Quebec and the communities we serve. Evidently, this government does not share that vision. On behalf of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) and its two largest member school boards, English Montreal and Lester B. Pearson, we are here to tell you that we are extremely disappointed by the proposed “solution” announced by the Liberal government this morning in response to the Supreme Court decision on Bill 104.
We went to the Supreme Court to argue that the Quebec government has certain obligations with respect to allowing access to English schooling; we said the government has a responsibility to provide us with the necessary oxygen to thrive and grow. We insisted that such obligations and responsibilities could be honoured without in any way threatening the legitimate and necessary protections for the French language in Quebec. The Supreme Court agreed with us.
Sadly, the government of Quebec has evidently been unable to summon the courage or the leadership to implement this honourable balance. We expect a growing number of Quebecers will share our anger and disappointment this morning.
This government had a chance to respond to the Court decision in a manner that could have supplied Quebec’s English public schools with perhaps 500-800 additional students a year. That is vital replenishment for us, and requires only modest and manageable reductions for a francophone school system of close to one million students. Once in our schools, those students would have the chance to master French, to participate in one of nine English school boards who are graduating an average of 80-per-cent-plus of their students each year – a target that this government only hopes to meet in the year 2020. The government could have respected the Court ruling, and maintained its necessary and legitimate defence of the French language at the same time.
Instead, it has chosen to respond with the paralysis and confusion that have so often afflicted Quebec governments when addressing the realities of a francophone Quebec and an increasingly frustrated English-speaking minority.
Let there be no mistake: our English public school system – with or without the support and leadership it deserves from its government – will, today and tomorrow, take its full place in Quebec society. It will use that place to produce bilingual graduates, ready, eager and willing to build their futures here. Those graduates will count on the good faith of our francophone concitoyens to include them in that future – and they will continue to hope, like us, for a day when their government will delight in the opportunities these English school graduates can bring. Today, this government has failed to deliver the fairness, clarity and justice that those graduates so richly deserve.
Contact : Kimberley Hamilton
Director of Communications and Special Projects
514-849-5900, ext. 225