Minister Bernard Drainville renews the permit of a Jewish school despite an unfavorable opinion

Despite an unfavorable opinion from his own advisors, the Minister of Education renewed until 2025 the permit of the Belz Jewish school, in the Montreal district of Outremont, which flouted health instructions during the pandemic and which does not respect the Quebec educational regime.

In its 2022-2023 report, tabled last week in the National Assembly, the Consultative Commission on Private Education (CCEP) expressed an unfavorable opinion on the Belz school’s permit renewal request. The ultra-Orthodox establishment welcomes just over 1,000 students in single-sex classes, from the age of five to fifth grade. The boys, however, finish their studies in secondary four, “without diploma or qualification”.

This is a “special” situation, noted the CCEP. In her work, she noted that “the time devoted to teaching compulsory subjects is not respected for a large part of educational services”. She added that “the problems raised for a good number of years remain not resolved by the establishment, particularly with regard to compliance with the Basic School Regulations. The Commission therefore recommended to the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, not to renew the permit of the Belz school.

In a response sent to Dutythe Ministry of Education nevertheless confirmed that Minister Drainville had renewed the establishment’s permit until June 2025. As noted by the CCEP, the last renewal was granted in 2022 for a single year , “a restricted period” to allow the school to comply “with the various regulatory requirements not yet met”.

The Belz school is part of a group of five establishments which concluded an agreement in 2009 with former Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne. These schools had until the start of the 2012-2013 school year to comply with the ministry’s requirements. “Progress has been observed over the years, but many shortcomings remain, which has led to permit renewals for very short periods,” recalled the CCEP.

In a short reaction, “one of the community leaders,” Samuel Herzog, wrote that “the school complies with all prescribed requirements” and that its administration “works closely with the ministry.” Mr. Herzog did not wish to make further comments.

No follow-up to formal notices

The Belz school made headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic when its administration flouted health measures. Minister Jean-François Roberge, then responsible for Education, had put the establishment’s leaders on notice because it continued to welcome students despite health instructions requiring distance learning. The Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec, which then spoke on behalf of the school, argued that its students did not have access to the Internet. Contacted by The duty, the Council did not wish to react to this article.

Upon verification, the ministry did not respond to the formal notices sent by its former captain. “According to the Ministry of Education, private educational establishments have not received a fine and have not been subject to an injunction,” confirmed spokesperson Bryan St-Louis to Duty. The fact remains that “the school was the subject of complaints to the Ministry of Education, in particular for non-compliance with school closures and instructions on wearing a mask and physical distancing”, underlined the CCEP in his report.

The CCEP also noted that a visit to the school by ministry employees revealed that 16 teachers “whose names do not appear in the ministerial system would work with young people”. This, “without holding a teaching authorization and without any steps having been taken to correct their situation”. This situation “greatly concerns the Commission”, it is written in the report. The CCEP is also concerned about the link that the school maintains “with a related company”, which is not named in the document. ” The Commission [tient] to express its discomfort with this type of business relationship between related companies,” she noted.

The CCEP advises the Ministers of Education and Higher Education on “any question falling within their competence in the field of private education governed by law”. “It notably gives opinions on the issuance, modification, renewal or revocation of permits or approvals,” we can read on its website.

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