QESBA acknowledges "balanced" top court decision on English school access

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sun Apr 3 19:13:22 UTC 2005

School Board Association calls for swift government implementation
    QESBA acknowledges "balanced" top court decision on English school

    MONTREAL, March 31 /CNW Telbec/ - This morning's Supreme Court of
Canada decision on two cases dealing with access to English schools
appears to be a "balanced and responsible ruling", Quebec English School
Boards Association President Marcus Tabachnick noted in a preliminary
statement issued this morning. "We will, of course, have to study the
judgment in detail, and await indication of how the government will
respond," he added. "That said, our public English school system is a
legitimate and important partner in Quebec society. It is essential that
fairness guide Quebec policy regarding who can attend our schools, be they
in Montreal, Laval or Gasp. In our view, the students who would be
affected by today's judgment clearly merit the opportunity to attend
English schools in Quebec."  It should be underlined that QESBA is
expecting the Quebec government, in the best interests of the students
concerned, to move swiftly to implement today's judgment. "We think the
courts have sent a message: be fair, take into account the totality of
each child's experience, regardless of where in Canada he or she has
studied in English. The Court is saying that access to English schooling
can't be a narrow game of numbers; the evaluation of each child must be
qualitative. We are saying that if that child meets the basic requirements
for access, then the education professionals within school boards should
be given the latitude to properly act in that child's best interests."

    Today's ruling-should properly ease the way for Canadian youngsters
who have studied French immersion in English schools anywhere in Canada to
attend English schools in Quebec. The Court did not, nor was it asked to
pronounce on the constitutionality of Law 104, which prevents children who
have studied in English in Quebec in a private school from transferring to
an English public school. This law has deprived Montreal-area English
school boards of an estimated 600 additional students. "Law 104 is an
unfair law," Tabachnick noted. "I don't believe it would pass the test set
by the Court today calling for reasoned and fair criteria to apply to
English school access in Quebec. We hope the Government will study the
judgment very carefully."  "Let's remember that one of the primary
missions of our English public school network is to graduate students who
are ready, willing and able to participate fully in Quebec society as well
as to live and work in both languages. We have every confidence that the
vast majority of French Quebecers support a fair and balanced government
policy on access to schooling that protects the French language, while
providing for the long-term stability of an English public school system.
That is the spirit of today's decision.  We expect the government to
honour that spirit."

    The Quebec English School Boards Association is the voice of Quebec's
English public school network. Its nine democratically elected school
boards serve some 115,000 students in 335 schools and adult education
centres across the province.

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