01/10/2020

The Quebec government says Ottawa has some explaining to do after it was revealed that the English Montreal School Board is funding two separate legal challenges of provincial laws with federal tax dollars.

The Quebec government says Ottawa has some explaining to do after it was revealed that the English Montreal School Board is funding two separate legal challenges of provincial laws with federal tax dollars.
“We need an explanation from the federal government,” said Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette the face of Quebec’s controversial secularism law, known as Bill 21.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is challenging that law, as well as a section of the Education Act that allows the province to force the transfer of schools between school boards namely last summer’s transfer of EMSB buildings to a French-language school board in Montreal’s east end.
Federal money administered by the University of Ottawa is being used, in part, to pay for that legal challenge.
Documents obtained by CBC show the EMSB applied for and was awarded two grants totalling $250,000 from the Court Challenges Program, a federally funded project run by the university.
The program’s website states that it is administered independently of the government by the University of Ottawa, with funding decisions made by expert panels reporting to the school.
Half of that money is to go to the fight against Bill 21, which bans some public employees from wearing religious symbols. The rest is going to challenge the school transfers.
The EMSB contends that both laws go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The university and the EMSB have declined to comment, saying only that they do not divulge information about legal funding.
PQ sides with CAQ 
Though he said he supports the public’s right to challenge laws, Jolin-Barette told reporters Wednesday that he wants to know where Ottawa stands on the matter. 
“We want to know if the federal government agrees with the fact that English Montreal [School Board] received some funding from the federal program,” he said.
“For us, Bill 21 was adopted by the will of the members of the National Assembly for the Quebec nation. So people agree with Bill 21.”
“Bill 21 is a demonstration of the distinctive society of Quebec, so it’s really important to respect that.”
Pascal Bérubé, interim leader of the Parti Québécois, agrees with Jolin-Barrette, saying its on par with Canada’s prime minister challenging Quebec law.
“Justin Trudeau fighting the law or federal money, it’s the same thing for us,” he said.
“Everyone is able to fight any law if they feel it is against their rights. But the federal government fighting a law by the National Assembly of Quebec is unacceptable.”
Program is independent, says PM
Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that the University of Ottawa’s program is independent, and the funding’s allocation is separate from the government.
He said he is confident that the university is making decisions based on the criteria put in place by the government.
“They are there to support Canadians who are defending their Charter rights and I am confident that process is unfolding independently as it should,” the prime minister said.
Not everybody in parliament agrees with the prime minister.
Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois, rose in the house Wednesday to ask the government if it would “back down and withdraw this illegitimate funding.”
To which Trudeau said the government cannot withdraw funding and added that funding is there to “help Canadians defend their human rights.”