Bill 40 thrown out
Quebec's Education Act ruled unconstitutional
Bill 40, an Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance, has been ruled as violating the education rights of Quebec's English-speaking minority community, according to a landmark decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Sylvain Lussier. The decision was welcomed by the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), as it affirms the Constitutional minority language educational rights of Canadians.
The court's far-reaching 129-page decision, announced on August 2, 2023, struck down certain provisions of Quebec's Education Act that were amended by Bill 40. These provisions led to the elimination of school boards and transferred decision-making power from the boards to the Minister of Education.
Justice Lussier emphasized that the government of Quebec has an obligation to consider the needs and concerns of the English-speaking community, including conducting appropriate consultations on proposed legislation. The court found that sufficient consultation had not taken place regarding Bill 40, leading to the violation of education rights.
The decision also rejected the narrow definition imposed by the government on who could vote in school board elections and serve as commissioners. The ruling expanded the eligibility to all citizens who have the right to register their children in English schools, regardless of whether those children are of school age or not, as well as to those who have or have ever had the right to do so.
The challenge against the reforms brought by the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) and other applicants argued that the changes in Bill 40 violated Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the applicants, the reforms stripped right-holding parents of effective management and control over English schools. As a result of the legal challenge, the courts had previously suspended the application of Bill 40 to English school boards.
QCGN President Eva Ludvig hailed the court's decision as a significant victory, not only for Quebec's English-speaking community, but also for official language minority communities across Canada. Ludvig emphasized the importance of education rights, as they are closely linked to cultural and community vitality.
Ludvig further urged the Government of Quebec not to appeal the decision and highlighted the court's clear message that the province has a responsibility to engage with its English-speaking community when developing legislation. The QCGN expressed its willingness to engage in effective consultation with the provincial government.
The reforms introduced by Bill 40 had led to a paradigm shift in the governance of Quebec's schools, as decision-making power was transferred from school boards, now designated as service centres, to the Minister of Education.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (www.qcgn.ca), a not-for-profit organization representing English-language community organizations and individuals across Quebec, played a significant role in advocating for the protection of language rights and fostering dialogue and collaboration in the province.
Photo caption: Looking down the hallway of Lord Aylmer Elementary: Quebec's English-speaking minority community celebrates landmark court decision on Bill 40.
Photo credit: Tashi Farmilo