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The EMSB Is Fighting Bill 21 Using Federal Funding & Many Quebec Politicians Are Not Happy

Politicians from the Bloc to the CAQ view the funding as federal interference in provincial politics.
The EMSB Is Fighting Bill 21 Using Federal Funding & Many Quebec Politicians Are Not Happy
  • News recently broke that the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) was receiving federal funding to challenge the controversial Quebec Bill 21 in court.
  • Quebec politicians, from the CAQ to the Bloc, have since expressed harsh words about what they see as a federal intrusion in a provincial matter.
  • The funding was not awarded by the federal government, however.

News recently broke that the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has successfully acquired funding from the Government of Canada's Court Challenges Program in an effort to challenge Quebec's Bill 21, often called the religious symbols ban. The EMSB is challenging the law on the basis that it goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the CBC reports. The EMSB is also challenging a section of the Quebec Education Act which allows for the Quebec government to reappropriate buildings, a situation that arose this past summer when the CAQ transferred two EMSB to the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Ile (CSPI).

MTL Blog reached out to the Court Challenges Program, who informed us that they cannot divulge any information about funding.

The EMSB also failed to return our request for comment.

This development comes as good news to critics of the secularism law who are hoping to see the law overturned. 

However, supporters of the law are voicing their frustration with what they see as federal interference in provincial politics.

Conservative and nationalist Quebec politicians, including Premier François Legault and members of the Bloc Québécois, have been most outspoken.

The Bloc posted the following official statement on Wednesday asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "to stop supporting the challenge of law 21 through the Court Challenge Program."

"It is absolutely unacceptable that Quebec taxpayers money be used to challenge a law adopted by the National Assembly. The sovereignty and will of the National Assembly must be respected," the post continues.

"Quebecers widely approved this law and do not want a challenge sponsored by the federal [government]."

Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet echoed this sentiment, writing on Twitter that the party "expressed [its] concern before and during the election campaign that the Liberals would take our own money to have the Quebec law on state secularism challenged in the courts. It did not take long....
Justin Trudeau is he trustworthy?"

However, the second paragraph of the Court Challenges Program website clearly explains that "the CCP is implemented and administered by the University of Ottawa, an organization independent of the Government."

The site further states that "funding decisions are made by two independent expert panels – one for official language rights and one for human rights. The Panels are each composed of experts who report to the University of Ottawa."

Still, many are blaming Trudeau for publically criticizing the bill and his avowed "openness" to challenges to it.

Some Twitter users shared this sentiment, saying it is "unacceptable" and "enraging, also, that money from Quebecers would serve to contest a Quebec law." 

The tweet above continues, saying that this funding demonstrates a "profound lack of respect."

"We can't say it enough: mind your own business."

The law continues to be divisive both in Quebec and abroad, with many heralding it as a beacon of secularism and others seeing it as enforcing and encouraging racist and xenophobic ideologies. 

Despite the clear explanation of the decision-making process laid out on the Court Challenges Program website, many still feel inclined to blame Trudeau personally for the funding.

Legault has now gone on to say that Trudeau is insulting Quebecers by funding an appeal against a law that Legault says is supported by a majority of Quebecers.

But as the debate escalates, it's clear that not everyone agrees with Legault.

The first tweet above reads, "M. Trudeau isn't insulting me. Bravo! He's getting his panties in a twist. Legault, stop speaking for all Quebecers, OK?"

The second echoes the same sentiment, saying, "Trudeau isn't insulting anyone. Legault is making an easy and tendentious statement."

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