Illegal hasidic schools
On December 3rd 2020, Justice Martin Castonguay of the Quebec Superior Court dismissed the action, while acknowledging the problems experienced in the past.
The judgment confirms that the plaintiffs, like all the children in their community at that time, did not receive the education to which they were entitled under the law. The judge concluded that the proceedings were aimed at “making a difference so that children from Hasidic communities receive an appropriate education that will enable them to live in a society other than their own.” The judgment noted progress in the children’s schooling since the proceedings were instituted, but criticized Tash community leaders for resisting government efforts to educate the children of their community.
Children from the Hasidic communities are being followed more closely since the intervention of the Youth protection (DPJ), the Wilfrid Laurier School Board and the Ministry of Education in 2017. This is a victory for these children who receive more education than their parents did.
Judge Castonguay recognized that children from Hasidic communities continue to attend religious schools on a full-time basis, but did not conclude that these schools are illegal. This continues to be of concern to the Lowen couple, who see it as a barrier to the education of these children. However, the plaintiffs decided not to appeal the judgment.
Summary of the claim
On May 11, 2016, the applicants Yochonon Lowen and Clara Wasserstein filed a Motion for declaratory judgment against the Attorney General of Quebec, the School Board of the Seigneurie-des-Mille-Iles, many Hasidic schools and organizations of the Tash community of Boisbriand and Rabbi Elimelech Lowy.
The procedure alleges that children raised in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community of Boisbriand, do not receive an education in accordance with legal standards. Community schools do not hold any license and do not meet the requirements of the mandatory program.
The procedure seeks a declaration by the Superior Court of Quebec that these schools operate in violation of the Education Act, the Act Respecting Private Education, the Charter of the French language and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The procedure also seeks a declaration that the Government of Quebec, by tolerating that the children of the Tash community attend illegal schools, violates its obligations under these same laws. No damages are sought.
The defendants filed motions to dismiss Yochonon Lowen and Clara Wasserstein’s application at a preliminary stage. The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed the motions from the Government of Québec and from the Hasidic schools on May 15, 2017. The Court concluded that Mr. Lowen and Mrs. Wasserstein had clear standing to act in the public interest and that the action presented a serious question that had to be decided by the Court. However, the Court concluded that the Plaintiffs had no legal connection to the School Board, and therefore rejected the Plaintiff’s claim with respect to the School Board only. The claim continued against the Government of Québec, the Boisbriand Hasidic schools and Boisbriand Rabbi Elimelech Lowy.