Moving From Denominational to Linguistic Education in Quebec


  • David Young
  • Lawrence Bezeau


In April of 1997, the governments of Quebec and Canada, through a constitutional amendment, eliminated all denominational rights and privileges respecting education in the province of Quebec. Consequently, Quebec abolished denominational school boards, replacing them with English-language and French-language boards. This paper examines the nature of this transition with an emphasis on what is now the Eastern Shores School Board, an English-language board serving the Gaspe peninsula, the Magdalen Islands, and the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Through interviewing members of the board hierarchy, and examining texts, articles, government documents, and newspaper accounts, it was concluded that the transition was successfully implemented in spite of the magnitude of the reform, and extremely tight government-imposed deadlines. In fact, the most difficult and controversial changes to the education system were those which were ancillary to the actual replacement of denominational school boards with linguistic ones. These were unrelated changes that the Province of Quebec chose to implement concurrently including the amalgamation of same-language school boards serving adjacent geographic areas and the imposition of severe budgetary constraints on boards. The move to a linguistic system, and the consequent elimination of denominational divisions in teacher organizations were relatively non-controversial, both among politicians and the general public. What little controversy that did exist concerned not the protection of religious rights, but the protection of language rights.

Several issues remain to be dealt with by the provincial government, including what was a denominationally divided Superior Council of Education, and the local property tax, now stripped of its denominational protection.