MONTREAL - Quebec's Superior Court on Monday rejected a request by a Montreal English school board to save two east-end schools from being transferred to the overcrowded French system.

The English Montreal School Board tried to get a court injunction to stop the transfers, arguing the government's decision to take away the schools violated minority language rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

But the EMSB failed to make the case that the matter was urgent, Justice Dominique Poulin said in her written ruling. The French board, she said, "would suffer a more important prejudice if the request by the EMSB was accorded and it's equally in the public interest for its demand to be refused."

Demographics have been against the city's English-speaking community from the beginning of the conflict between the two school boards.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge had argued the French system was short 3,000 spaces while some English schools in east-end Montreal operated at roughly half capacity. A recent government decree made the transfers effective July 1.

East-end Montreal is home to a growing number of recent immigrants who are legally barred from attending English school. Poulin noted that one of the schools being taken from the English system will serve "mostly a newly arrived immigrant population."

The students affected by the two transfers could be easily absorbed in the other English schools in the area, Poulin said.

Roberge's spokesman, Francis Bouchard, said the minister is "rejoicing" at the court's ruling.

"Our government took the difficult but necessary decision to order the transfer in consideration of the interest of all Quebec students," Bouchard said in an email. "In light of this judgment, we call on the EMSB to begin the administrative steps in order to transfer the schools."

The EMSB also argued the Education Department's decision would hurt the vitality of the English-speaking community in east-end Montreal.

Poulin said while the linguistic rights of a minority language community were at play, the court didn't have enough evidence at its disposal to evaluate the extent of the harm that would be caused by the relocations. That evaluation would be done during the court process, she said.

"The vitality of the linguistic community of the EMSB could ultimately be re-established, at least in the future, following a judgement on the merits, where appropriate," she said.

EMSB Chair Angela Mancini told reporters following the ruling that the English-speaking community has constitutional rights, "and as such, we are considering all legal options available to us."

Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, said he "hoped and expected" the EMSB will pursue the case.

"This is not the last batch of kids that are going to face this," Chambers said in an interview. "And if we don't establish what the limit of the government rights of intervention are, these problems are just going to continue."

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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