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Backgrounder : Language-Based Education Legislation in Quebec

Backgrounder : Language-Based Education Legislation in Quebec

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Published by: ccfournier on Oct 30, 2010
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 Language-based Education Legislation in Quebec
Life in Quebec is hard for an Anglophone or allophone. Getting an education in the language of yourchoice became more difficult with the passing of Bill 115 in the National Assembly of Quebec last week.In order to close loopholes in Bill 101, Quebecers now face new language regulations and their
children’s eligibility for an English education is greatly reduced.
or the last 50 years, language laws have been making their way into Quebec’s political and legal
landscape. While older bills limited English instruction to some, recent laws have begun to make it nearimpossible unless you have the means to pay for private schools
. Here’s a look back at some of the
legislation that has affected the choice of language of instruction in this province.
Prior to Bill 101, few language laws existed in Quebec, especially when it came to education. In the
1960’s, Jean Lesage’s Liberal government passed several measures that would promote the use of 
French in public yet still allowing people to use English(A Look Back at Language Laws).In 1969, Bill 63 was passed by the Union Nationale government led by Jean-Jacques Bertrand. This billgave parents the choice between an English or French education for their child. However, the Liberals,led by Robert Bourassa, passed Bill 22 in 1974 by making French the official language of Quebec andrequired immigrants to send their children to French schools(A Look Back at Language Laws).The Charter of French Language was adopted on August 24, 1977. The charter is also known as Bill 101.Basically, Bill 101 provided the framework for the language policies in Quebec(Bélanger) and establishedthe language of use for government and law. Its purpose is to shape what language people speak everyday by imposing restrictions on how businesses, schools and communication is to be conducted(TheCharter of the French Language).For educational purposes, this elementary and secondary level schooling is to be done in French. Unless,that is, you met certain conditions. A child can receive an English education is one of these criteria wasmet:One parent received the majority of their elementary education in English in Canada but outsideof Quebec and is a Canadian citizen.The father or mother received the majority of their elementary education in English in Quebecbut are not Canadian citizens.The student already attended an English school before August 1977.
 The custodial parent(s) first had to make a request to the government for an exemption. An applicationwas subject to review. Documents proving eligibility must also be submitted. Access to an Englisheducation was also granted to any sibling of a child that was granted entry into the public system (TheCharter of the French Language).In accordance with Bill 101, French classes begin in grade one, as part of the English school curriculumfor English school, and in order to graduate from high school, a minimum level of spoken and writtenFrench skills is necessary.Another accommodation is made if for children of temporary residents. If a parent temporarily moves toQuebec for school or because of a work posting, the child is given access to the public English schools
using their visitors’ status –
since the move is not supposed to be permanent(Instruction in English inQuébec).Ultimately, a back door into English schools was found. In simple terms, a child could be send to a fully-private school (also known as bridging school) for grade 1 and then transfer to a public school. This wasbased on the principle that they now met the requirement that said if a child received the majority of their elementary education in an English school a transfer to the public system waspermissible(Dougherty, Bill Introduced to Determine Admission to English Schools).This practice was stopped in 2002 when the Quebec government, then being run by the Parti Québécois,enacted Bill 104 (CTV News, Bill 103 Generates Criticism 2010). Several families challenged this bill andeventually the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in October of 2009 that this bill was not constitutionaland could not be upheld(Bill 104 Timeline). Quebec was then given a year to draft a whole new bill afterthis ruling. The deadline for passing a new bill was October 22, 2010.
Current Situation
The Quebec government, now run by Jean Charest and his Liberal party, responded to the SupremeCourt ruling by proposing Bill 103. The bill was introduced at the National Assembly in June 2010 andspent the summer in hearings(Magder). Bill 103 stated that a student needed to attend a private schoolfor minimum of three years before a transfer to the public system could be made (CTV News, Bill 103Generates Criticism 2010). The deadline to pass this bill was October 22, 2010 in order to comply withthe court ruling.This led to Bill 115 which was shoved through legislation by a vote of 61 to 54 (CBC News 2010) onOctober 22, 2010, after an emergency sitting was called earlier in the week. This new bill is basically arevised, if not nearly identical(Branswell), version of Bill 103. It deleted any portion of Bill 103 that wouldhave declared it unconstitutional, as it proposed
a change to Quebec’s Human Rights Charter.
 Currently the Quebec charter does not allow for discrimination based on language, however, Bill 103would have changed that by giving French a clear priority(Dougherty, Quebec Government Pushesthrough Controversial Language Law).Bill 115 will allow children who attend an unsubsidized English private school to transfer to a publicschool after three years. A six-page regulation set forth a point system as well, by which an applicantmust receive a minimum of 15 points in order for their application to be accepted(Macpherson).Those 15 points are received by spending three years in a private school should but the panel thatreviews application can add or subtract points based a number of factors. For example, after spendingthree years tuition on a private school, parents may find out that their application is rejected becausethey did not send their child to the right type of private school(Macpherson).
Possible Repercussions
Bill 115 is considered more harmful to the future of English education in the province than Bill 103 was.
The Liberal government’s intention with this bill is to make is difficult, if not impossible, for most to
make it into the English public system if they do not have the means to pays for it(Branswell). Thenumber of students at the English Montreal School Board declined by the thousands after Bill 104 waspassed in 2002(No Retreat on Bill 104 Decision). Since Bill 115 offers little more than Bill 104, unless youcan afford thousands of dollars in tuition fees to buy your child an English education, enrollment in theEnglish public school system will continue to decline.On the other hand, Pauline Marois, the current leader of the Parti Québécois, has vowed to overturnthis legislation if her party gains power in the next provincial election. "We will abrogate the law, the Bill115 and we will be back with Bill 101. We will reinforce Bill 101," said Marois (CTV News, Marois: PartiQuebecois Would Rescind Bill 115 2010). Instead, she plans to extend Bill 101 by refusing Francophonesaccess to English private schools. Electing a Parti Québécois government could mean the end of Bill 115but not the limited access to English.For the time being, Bill 115 stills needs royal assent but it expected to receive shortly. In the meantime,
the new point system will be published in the province's Official Gazette, giving the public 45 days[from October 19] to voice any concerns or recommendations before the law takes effect
(CBC News2010). This publication is available for a $4.95 at the Publications Québec website. 

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