Quebec schoolboard elections: Why you should care

09.22.14

Folks, this is important: Quebec is having school board elections in November, and for the first time, the position of Chair is directly electable by the population.

My wonderful aunt, Suanne Stein Day, is running for re-election as LBPSB Chair. It’s because she’s wonderful, and not just because she’s family, that I’d urge you to go out and vote for her if you’re eligible. (And give her a Like on Facebook while you’re at it, eh? Especially the parents among you, please share your concerns and thoughts with her, as she’s certainly listening and wanting to help!) I can’t vote for her as I don’t live in the LBPSB’s region. But I can certainly give her a ringing endorsement on this blog.

But, whoever you vote for, I’d urge everyone to get informed and get involved. I’m not a parent. Maybe you’re not either, and you’re wondering why you should care.

Voices of the anglo community

The thing is, the anglophone community in Quebec has very little left in the way of political representation. Many of our institutions, community organizations and representatives no longer exist. The school boards are one of our last remaining organized voices to be taken seriously whenever issues arise.

In the last two years, there were plenty of these issues. The debates while the PQ was in power over Bill 14 and the proposed Charter of Values proved how important it was for us to have these voices. Suanne, as well as other prominent voices from minority communities, travelled to Quebec City to present briefs at the parliamentary hearings for these two very discriminatory pieces of legislation, both of which were ultimately defeated. These are but two examples, but Suanne has been a vocal and active defender of our rights in the media and political spheres.

Our future at stake

The English school boards are essential to the future of our community. Bill 101 and subsequent legislation have so restricted eligibility for English education that the boards are facing an existential threat. Dwindling enrolment is a result of these restrictions and of anglophones moving out of province or choosing to send their kids to French schools.

You may not realize this —  I didn’t, at first — but the English boards face an even bigger challenge with funding. See, every eligible voter in Quebec gets automatically registered to vote in the French schoolboard of their area, regardless of their language of preference or the language in which they themselves were educated. The only exceptions are parents with children actively enrolled in the English system (if they’ve since graduated, you may have been switched back to the French list) and people who have filled out a form asking to be switched to the English list.

This isn’t just about where you vote, either. It’s also about which board gets to collect your school taxes. Whether you are a property owner paying school taxes directly, or a tenant paying them via your landlord as part of your rent, this applies to you. And me. And all of us. That means that the English school boards are facing a perpetual funding challenge even compared to the ratio of community they serve, because so many of the English-speaking or anglophone-eligible people living in their districts may be registered on the French lists. ETA: Actually, there’s a revenue-sharing agreement in many regions of Quebec, including the island of Montreal. But not everywhere. And the number of people registered to vote in the English schoolboard elections is still much smaller than the proportion of the community they serve.

Despite these challenges, the English school boards graduate engaged, successful students. The students of these boards are Quebec’s most bilingual, have Quebec’s highest rates of graduation and post-secondary education, and go on to be our future leaders and ensure the continuity of our community.

Many of my closest friends are teachers, educators and parents. Others are people who simply want what’s best for the community in general. This school board election takes the decision out of the hands of a few commissioners and places it in the hands of the general population. The gauntlet has been thrown. Let’s pick it up and accept the challenge by getting involved and turning out in big numbers in November to vote.

How to vote for an English school board:

  1. Call the Director General of Elections office at 1-888-ELECTION (353-2846). You can check for your entire household at this time.
  2. If you’re on the English list, all is well. You will receive a voter’s card in the mail in October.
  3. If you’re on the French list and wish to be transferred to the English list, you must visit the website of the English school board in your area and download and complete a form requesting to be transferred. Here are links to the forms for the EMSB and the LBPSB.
  4. Mail the form into the address on the bottom, or drop it off at a school, board office, or with a candidate running for office. DEADLINE: OCTOBER 14th.
  5. You’ll get a voter card in the mail in October telling you when and where to vote, and who the candidates for your board are. If you don’t know any of them, that’s okay; read what they’re saying, speak to parents or teachers or reach out to the candidates themselves on social media. Ask them questions.
  6. Vote on Election Day on November 2nd. There’s also an advance polling day on October 26th.

 

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