Anglos must vote in school elections to fight ‘hostile’ Legault government, MP says

Quebec anglophones must turn out in force in school board elections to fight off a “very hostile” provincial government, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says.“A community would not exist without its institutions — and there’s no institution more important to minority language groups than our schools,” Housefather said Tuesday.

“We are faced with a Quebec government that has shown us over the last number of years that it is very hostile to our interests. This is very unfortunate, but we can overcome.”

Housefather was speaking at a Quebec English School Boards Association meeting about running and voting in the Nov. 3 elections at nine English boards.

The boards have clashed with Premier François Legault on several fronts.His government is trying to eliminate the elected anglophone institutions. It has already scrapped French boards, replacing them with “school service centres” controlled by the province.

English boards went to court, arguing the overhaul is unconstitutional because it infringes on the anglophone community’s right to manage and control its schools.

The Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of English boards. Quebec is appealing.

Housefather, a former head of the anglophone rights group Alliance Quebec, said a strong voter turnout is important, as is having many candidates on ballots.“If the turnout is four or five per cent, the Quebec government will go and say, ‘See, we told you these schools should be service centres because nobody cares,’” Housefather said.

With a high turnout rate, “people will say, well, that community cares about its schools.”Housefather lauded English school boards for “stepping in” to counter Coalition Avenir Québec government laws that target minority rights.

That includes the “outrageous” ban on public servants wearing religious symbols, he said — and “cockamamie” language legislation that would require English boards to communicate with other anglophone institutions in French.

QESBA president Joe Ortona said the “elections are critical to the vitality of Quebec’s English-speaking community.“The reality is that school boards are the last instance of government that belong to our community, and schools are often at the heart of community life.”As chair of the English Montreal School Board since 2020, Ortona has championed legal challenges against the Legault government.“Our court cases get the headlines, but commissioners have a much bigger role than that,” he said.

The English boards serve 100,000 students in more than 300 schools across Quebec.“Each board has its unique demographics, orientations and history. All of them share a … sensibility to delivering public education services with equal regard for the needs and wants of all students, parents and staff.”our school systems. And, to put it mildly, the government does little if anything to encourage voter turnout.”Katherine Korakakis, president of the English Parents’ Committee Association, encouraged parents to present themselves as candidates and to vote.“We’re doing it for our children and our future. We have to care and we have to show up.“It’s not enough to just complain and go on social media and write a post. What you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.”

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