MONTREAL — Quebec Superior Court has granted a stay to English school boards challenging a provincial government law abolishing them, pending the outcome of a legal challenge on its merits.
The province passed the law — known as Bill 40 — in February, abolishing school boards and replacing them with service centres, eliminating school board elections for French boards in the process.
The province's nine English school boards were permitted to maintain elections and had been given until November to hold them for an eventual shift to service centres later this year.
The Quebec English School Boards Association was among several groups that filed an injunction in May, challenging the governance plan on the basis it doesn't respect Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
That section guarantees minority language educational rights to English-speaking minorities in Quebec.
In a decision Monday, Justice Sylvain Lussier wrote there was a debate to be had on the English-speaking minority's right to make decisions in matters of education and whether the provincial law takes the concerns of the community into account.
"Abolished by law, English-language school boards, spokespersons for the minority, will suffer irreparable damage if the law comes into force," Lussier wrote.
"Despite the presumption of the validity of the legislation, in the particular circumstances of this case, the preponderance of disadvantages favours the applicants."
The Coalition Avenir Quebec had long promised to abolish school boards and replace them with a more decentralized governance structure.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge told a news conference Monday the government intends to discuss the matter with its lawyers.
"We are fully confident that we respect the right of the English community to manage and control their school boards," Roberge said.
The Quebec Community Groups Network, an advocacy group for English-speaking Quebecers, called the decision great news for the community.
"The ruling means that unwelcome changes to the management of our schools are now on hold while the courts review the constitutionality of Bill 40 — a case that will help clarify the rights of official language minority communities across Canada," QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers said in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.