There was some sound reasoning behind yesterday's Quebec Court of Appeal order suspending application of last week's decision on Bill 104. But the ruling will be deeply frustrating, all the same, for the parents who fought the case in court, and for everyone unhappy with the rigidity of school-access law.
Last week, the appeal court threw out Bill 104, a 2002 amendment to Quebec's French Language Charter. Before Bill 104, students not otherwise eligible for English-language schooling had been able to get in if they spent Grade 1 in a costly fully private English school.
The Liberal government announced instantly it would appeal the striking down of Bill 104. And it asked the court to suspend the application of the ruling - that is, keep Bill 104 in force and keep all such children in French schools - until the Supreme Court rules on the appeal.
Yesterday, Justice André Rochon, for the court, decreed in such cases the norm is to keep a challenged law in force until the appeal is settled. He also noted changing the school-access rules just as a new school year is beginning could lead to "administrative and juridical chaos for everyone involved."
Further, he noted, allowing the children whose parents brought the case to court to enter English schools now could do them more harm than good, in the event Bill 104 is ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.
It's all good law, and not unreasonable. But imagine the feelings of the families that have been fighting this since shortly after Bill 104 was passed five years ago.
We don't see what else Justice Rochon could have done, but the whole affair only reveals the injustice that lurks at the heart of our coercive laws on school access.