Centre Jules-Léger: a governance structure that does not work
I can assure you, since my nomination in 2007, there is no shortage of issues. But few cases have had as great an impact on me as this investigation into the governance of the Centre Jules-Léger (in French). This centre specializes in Francophone students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low of vision, deaf-blind, or have severe learning disabilities. You could say that these students are members of a double minority. All of them wish to be heard and understood, to learn in a safe environment, and not to be stigmatized. All of them are also trying to develop a sense of belonging to a community.
I confess that I was deeply moved by all the meetings with students, parents, educators, administrators and members of non-profit organizations, many of whom are former students of the Centre Jules-Léger. I also realize that many people will probably be disappointed with the
investigation’s conclusions. Our job was not to please everyone, but to answer the question asked about the Centre Jules-Léger’s governance.
And this question is legitimate: Why Centre Jules-Léger is not governed in an autonomous way, by and for Francophones? Why does the actual governance model report to the Ministry of Education? Why is there no board that can lead the administration in an autonomous and independent manner, like most of the other Francophone institutions in Ontario?
I concluded that, following our investigation, the Centre Jules-Léger’s governance model violates section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and undermines the Centre Jules-Léger’s integrity and mission. The current governance structure does not work. This situation must be remedied and governance by and for Francophones should be instituted before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
Therefore, I recommend that the government put the governance of the Centre Jules-Léger in the hands of Francophones. That the Centre be governed by one of the 12 French-language school boards on a trustee basis. To achieve this goal, I also recommended that a transition committee be established. The committee’s mandate will be, from September to December 2015, to make recommendations to the Minister of Education. The committee’s mandate will be to make recommendations to the Minister to ensure both a smooth transition for the students and the viability of the Centre Jules-Léger by September 2016. I also suggest referring to the CFORP (in French) as a model.
Since the goal is to get this new governance model in place by 2016, the government needs to act quickly, in the best interests of Francophone students served by the Centre Jules-Léger.
All want to see the Centre Jules-Léger revitalized, returned to its status as a benchmark, a model for others. I can only hope that the French-language school boards will be visionary, not just operationally effective. I hope, as indicated by the school board administrators, that there will be centralized decision-making, combined with decentralized services. I also hope that the renewed research mandate will be built around visionary, responsible management, which will make this institution into a true centre of excellence.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all those who met with us, gave us their time, and shared with us their ideas and their abiding passions. The ball is now in the government’s court…and there is no time to lose.