Is Yolande James Endorsing Québec Private Schools over Public Schools?
I was looking for the sports pages in La Presse this morning when a 60 page full color catalog for Québec’s public schools network called Le Privé fell into my lap.
The marketing insert is published by the Fédération des Établissements d’Enseignement Privés du Québec and features descriptions of Québec’s many private schools and sappy testimonials by famous Québécois including 2006 patriot of the year Luck Merville, Université de Montréal vice-rector Rachida Azdouz and Provincial Immigration and cultural communities minister Yolande James.
Let’s be clear, the magazine format notwithstanding, this is a publicity insert that was bundled with cell phone, electronics and appliance publicity inserts. The FÉEP is a lobby group for private schools. Schools run as businesses who sell their products to Québec parents. It’s also a heavily subsidized industry as Québec private schools can receive as much as 60% of their funding from the provincial government.
Is it appropriate for a cabinet minister to be featured in such a publicity insert? Doesn’t it look as if she is endorsing private schools over public schools? Is this not clearly a conflict of interest?
What if she was posing on a Bombardier or a RioTintoAlcan insert? Or in a Dairy Producers of Québec marketing magazine?
The interviewees do not endorse any schools or private schools in general and only talk about diversity and multiculturalism. Someone knew there was something wrong or at the very least controversial about a minister endorsing private schools and made sure she did not actually pronounce the words. But her pictures and testimonials in a magazine solely devoted to private schools IS an endorsement.
Only yesterday Parti québécois education critic Louise Harel called for a moratorium on new private schools until the public sector is fixed.
The multicultural message peddled by the private schools is quite hypocritical since, while Montreal’s public schools are very diverse, publicly financed private schools are allowed to have clearly ethnic missions and Montreal has a whole bunch of these ghetto Armenian and Jewish schools.
In 1975 10% of Québec schoolchildren went to private schools. Today it’s one third. The public system is running the risk of becoming a welfare school for only the poorest of the poor who can’t afford to go to the ‘good’ schools. No other province in Canada is as generous with private schools. Ontario doesn’t give them a dime. Québec has created a de facto voucher system.
This is what Yolande James endorsed today.