When he learned of the position of elected officials of the Council of the English School-Montreal (CSEM) stating that “Quebec is not a nation”, François Legault was not going ahead.
“I think they’re separated, it’s like this band has become a radical band.”
Even if EMSB President Joe Ortona (disqualified as Ensemble Montreal’s candidate after agreeing to this view) admits that the gesture was a mistake, there is reason to question the positions taken by recent developments and the position of this institution.
That is why the project to build a French-speaking elementary school at Mount Royal must be closely monitored. The decision that EMSB will bear the risk of being a measure of its openness (or closure).
Struck by a demographic upheaval that generated a large number of new French-speaking students, the municipality of 22,000 people came to the conclusion that it had to set up a fourth primary school to accommodate these young clients.
The schools of Saint-Clément Ouest, Saint-Clément Est and the Académie Saint-Clément are so full that they have to put students in model classes installed in schoolyards. This obviously has the effect of depriving children of a vital play area. Since the beginning of the school year, 4 modular classrooms (prefabricated buildings) of 26 students have been established near the Ecole Saint-Clément Ouest and 6 at the Académie Saint-Clément.
A project to establish a new school has been drafted and sent to the Ministry of Education in recent months by the municipality of Mont-Royal and the Marguerite Bourgeois School Service Centre.
Since the beginning of this crisis, a solution has been launched: to build this school on land adjacent to Dunrae Gardens School, an English-speaking elementary school. This space, owned by EMSB, is located at the corner of Rockland Road and Dunrae Street.
The location is really perfect. With Pierre-Laporte High School, located across, and adjacent Mohawk Park, this sector could become a small student town.
But now, this idea does not appeal at all to parents of English-speaking children who attend Dunrae Gardens School. They disagreed last year on social media.
It was the publication of a letter from the liberal MP Pierre Arcand that ignited the powder. On September 2, 2020, Arcand wrote on Facebook: “The land next to Denray School is free.”
Faced with the outcry raised by his proposal, he hastened to amend his letter. “Back to school: the primary schools on my journey are overwhelmed. We crossed the Académie Saint-Clément with standard classrooms. What is the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, waiting for to act?”
Then, after Pierre Arcand saw that the spirits continued to heat up, he published a new message the next day. “I would tell the parents of Dunrae Gardens School that I in no way encourage the use of one of your spaces to build a new elementary school in Mount Royal. There have been discussions about a project at the Department of Education, but if there is no social acceptance, it will have to be found another solution. ”
This file is now in the hands of officials from the Ministry of Education. Everyone is anxiously waiting for the decision. However, I learned that the Ministry intends to acquire the land located next to the Denray Gardens School.
I also learned that the municipality would be willing to review the profession of Mohawk Park, adjacent to Denray Gardens School, in order to entertain students of both schools. In short, everyone will find something for them.
Will English-Montreal accept this proposal? Will he show openness to help the Francophone community in Mount Royal find a solution? According to my sources, the negotiations are going well.
It would have been much better if the climate had been more positive, because the Mayor of Mount Royal, Philip Roy, told me that it is difficult to move this file forward. “We have been working on this with the Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Service Center since day one and things are going well. But with English-Montreal, we have no contact. We are unable to establish a dialogue with them to find a solution.”
More circumspect in her remarks, Chancellor Michele Sitlacwe, who will try to run for mayor of Mount Royal on November 7, wanted to be eligible. “There is no friction. We are a bilingual city. […] I understand parents who are concerned about their children and their school environment,” she said before adding that Denray Gardens School already has “a lot of space.”
On the English side – Montreal, they refused to talk to me. A spokesman for Michael Cohen just wrote to me that “there was nothing new” about this. For its part, the Ministry of Education refused to comment on the ongoing discussions.
Mont-Royal has long been a stronghold for English-speaking people. Forty years after the first referendum, the demographic situation has completely reversed.
French speakers are now the majority. Anglophones must now turn to institutions such as school boards to assert their rights.
Let’s remember that Joe Ortona opposed Law 21 on the Secularization of the State (which does not apply to English-speaking school board staff after a Supreme Court ruling) as well as the law abolishing school boards. At the beginning of September, it was announced that Bill 96, which aims to update the French language charter, is not “essential”.
What happened in the past few weeks? Did the English-Montreal administration realize that its “extreme” attitudes should not prevent children, both English-speaking and French-speaking, from enjoying good conditions during their studies?
We warmly hope so.
In any case, this stormy project of having two elementary schools, Francophone and Anglophone, coexisting, nevertheless, became an eloquent example of the bilingualism still prevalent in Quebec. But it’s also, it has to be said, a pathetic icon that seems to set us back decades.
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