School administrators in the English system will be starting this school year with lighter shoulders. The weight of a looming decision on Bill 40 was lifted in early August when Judge Sylvain Lussier’s emphatic ruling invalidated much of the educational reform law. The ruling represents a sweeping victory for the province’s English-speaking community, which will continue to manage its education system under the protection of Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The ruling also gives Anglophones a bit of footing on the slippery slope of minority language rights in Quebec, which is currently being made even muddier by the application of Bill 96. It is not clear yet whether the CAQ government plans to further chip away at this by launching an appeal of the Bill 40 ruling. Certainly, the contents of the ruling suggest there is little legal leeway for the government to argue, and there may be even less tolerance at the political level. From the outset, Bill 40 was forced through the National Assembly through closure, despite unanimous opposition to the legislation. Both the Quebec Liberals and Conservatives have bluntly stated an appeal would be a waste of time and would only exacerbate tensions between linguistic communities.
The Quebec English School Boards Association has openly called on the government to take a step back and allow the English community to exercise its right to manage and control our schools. The ruling should come as a humbling moment for François Legault as he faces several court challenges to Bill 21 and Bill 96, which target linguistic and ethnic minority rights. There are so many more pressing concerns in education right now, including a severe teacher and staff shortage and crumbling infrastructure. Let’s hope the premier and his government take stock and resist the urge to fight what can only be a losing battle.