Government report highlights dysfunction within EMSB

A scathing new government report has found a culture of dysfunction and lack of leadership within the English Montreal School Board.

The conclusion of the report was made public Friday by the office of Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. It recommends the EMSB be stripped of its powers. 

Roberge said the status quo at the EMSB cannot be tolerated. He didn't rule out putting the board under trusteeship, or even a criminal investigation.

"We didn't think the problems were this big, with such a grave level of dysfunction," Roberge told reporters.

The government probe was launched in January after allegations surfaced about irregularities in the awarding of contracts related to vocational training.

The report attributes the problems at the EMSB to "weak governance," which has had a negative impact on the entire organization. 

Its release comes as the Coalition Avenir Québec government is preparing to table legislation that would do away with school boards across the province — a plan that has been met with resistance from members of the English community.

Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC

Earlier this week, a government source told CBC News the CAQ was planning to include exceptions for English school boards.

Under the new system, elections will remain in place for anglophone school boards and parents and members of the community will be elected.

But there won't be board commissioners and school boards will have a different name, according to the source.

The EMSB said this week it would take legal action if the CAQ moves to abolish English school boards.

Timing in question

When asked about the timing of report, Roberge said it was always supposed to be released this week. 

He suggested the EMSB's decision to hold a news conference this week threatening legal action was conveniently timed, given the board also knew the report was coming.

"We are not making politics with this issue. We are not making politics over the rights of children to get an education," he said.

EMSB spokesperson Mike Cohen said the board didn't receive a copy of the report and only learned about it from the media.

"We need the proper time to review it," he said. He said the EMSB would comment further next week. 

Later Friday, Quebec Premier François Legault said the CAQ's plan to reform school boards has been in place for years and has "nothing to do with the timing of this report."

He said full details of the new structure of school governance would be clear in a few weeks, when the legislation is tabled.

But he added that "whatever is decided regarding the future of school boards, it's unacceptable" what's happening at the EMSB.