Quebec to investigate allegations at English Montreal School Board

MONTREAL — Quebec’s education minister has ordered an investigation of the province’s largest English-language school board after learning of serious allegations about the board’s governance.

At a news conference in Quebec City, Jean-Francois Roberge said that soon after being named minister last fall, he was briefed on problems at the board dating back years.

“These allegations are troubling and serious. We must take action,” Roberge said. “They relate primarily to the management of material and human resources and the working climate at the English Montreal School Board.”

He said the board’s council of elected commissioners, which oversees a $280-million budget, is frequently “paralyzed” by internal conflicts.

“Also, there have been irregularities in vocational training, particularly with regard to partnerships with organizations that are not recognized by the (Education Department) and that provide substandard instruction,” he said. “Of course this is unacceptable.”

Roberge has asked the department’s investigation team to submit a preliminary report by June 3 and a final report by Sept. 10.

The EMSB said in a statement that news of the investigation “has caught us completely by surprise. It said it had not been informed of any irregularities uncovered in reviews commissioned by the previous Liberal government. The most recent of the reviews was submitted in June 2017.

“We have absolutely nothing to hide,” the board said, promising that department investigators “will have the full cooperation of the EMSB’s governance and management in the completion of their work.”

The investigation comes as the future of Quebec’s school boards is in doubt. The Coalition Avenir Quebec government was elected in October on a promise to abolish the boards. Opposition to the move has been strongest among anglophones, who consider the elected boards vital to their community.

Roberge said the good work accomplished at the EMSB cannot be tarnished “by actions and practices that are ethically unacceptable.”

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