Damage control

Posted 10.19.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | While many of us watched the dramatic revelations of Quebec's Charbonneau corruption commission, we were relieved to learn that this cancer has not spread to Gatineau's political life. But then, a couple of weeks later, we learn that Radio Canada has found something worth examining in the relations between a major contractor -- and a local school board.

Well, why would we think otherwise, given the large building budgets handled by school boards. Big money attracts skullduggery.

However, Radio Canada is not the justice system. No one claims this media network has political motives, but it does not have the resources nor the legal tools to dig to the bottom of all these scandals and rumours. So we are left, unfortunately, with rumours.

First question: What will it take for the judicial system to look into the credible rumours (as opposed to wild rumours) around the Western Quebec School Board's dealings with a big contractor?

Second question: If the lack of transparency surrounding the school board's dealings -- a now-institutionalized refusal to openly fulfill the public's right to know -- if this refusal to speak freely continues, will we ever see the bottom of this story?

If the claims of corruption here are proven true, then the board's own policy of not being forthright with the public and media actually facilitated those illegalities. Given this policy, can we trust the board to investigate itself and reveal those dealings?

The public is clearly upset about these allegations. There are rumours flying, most of them very, very difficult to verify -- for example, did the Board actually sell its old offices building -- an historical building -- on rue Principale to the contractor under examination for only $1?

The justice system and the board itself have to step up and end these rumours and innuendo. What the media gets is 'no comment.'

Is that responsible management by the Board? No.

But even more important is the fact that it is the English-language minority's school board which is under investigation. That shakes the confidence of our entire Anglo community. Our school board is a critical part of our society's survival and prosperity.

Why have the scandals around the Catholic Church and child abuse been so shocking? Because the Church has been so important in the lives of whole communities. The same applies to a school board and one that serves a minority community, at that.

Minorities need all the resources they can muster. If we find one of our pivotal agencies may have corruption at its heart, what are we to think? This is not a contractor paying off someone for a zoning change. This investigation concerns the future of Quebec's English minority, nothing less.

Time for the school board to get out of its damage-control mode and bring in the sleuths trained for this job. It owns this to the accused, as well as to all of us.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.13