French Group Seeks To Close Language Loophole

French group seeks to close language loophole

Growing number of immigrants and francophones enrolling children in non-subsidized private English language schools not covered by language law prohibitions

Rhal Sguin
Quebec City Globe and Mail
Update Published on Thursday, Mar. 04, 2010 11:36AM EST
Last updated on Thursday, Mar. 04, 2010 1:23PM EST

The government body overseeing the protection of the French language in Quebec is recommending that the province extend the strict provisions in the province's language law to non-subsidized private schools[] to limit immigrant access to English language schools or face social deconstruction.

The Conseil suprieur de la langue franaise recommended in a report released today that the National Assembly send a clear signal by voting unanimously for changes to the language law that reinforces French as the common language of instruction for all immigrants in order to preserve social cohesion and linguistic peace in the province.

Without appropriate reaction from the government this situation would leave Quebec without any recourse exposed to a dynamic of social deconstruction, the report stated.

Last October the Supreme Court[] of Canada struck down provisions adopted in 2002 in Quebec's language law that barred Quebec immigrants from using non-subsidized English language schools as a mean to circumvent the province's language law and get their kids into English schools.

The Quebec government was given a year to comply with the ruling. Today's report will serve in guiding the government on meeting the court required standards.

Under Quebec's French Language Charter all francophone and immigrant children must attend a French language school. If at least one of the child's parents or order sibling received most of their elementary or secondary instruction in English then they were allowed to enroll in the English language school system.

A growing number of immigrants as well francophones parents began circumventing the law by enrolling their children in non-subsidized private English language schools which were not covered by the language law prohibitions. Children attended the so-called bridging schools for a year or less and would then transfer into either the English language public system or subsidized private English schools.

According to the report the loophole was becoming more and more popular with wealthy immigrant and francophone families. The number of children using the loophole to circumvent the system more than doubled between 1998 and 2002, from 628 children to 1,379 per year.

The statistics in the report also showed that the proportion of children whose mother tongue was French and who had enrolled in the non-subsidized English language schools ballooned from 12-per cent in 1998 to 23-per cent in 2002 when the law was changed to close the loophole. Meanwhile the proportion of children whose mother tongue was English attending these schools dropped from 19.9 per cent to 15.7 per cent during this same period.

The report argued that the non-subsidized schools were creating two classes of immigrants where those who had enough money to take advantage of the non-subsidized English language schools would threaten Quebec's defense of the French language in the province.

To allow things to continue without restriction would shake the linguistic balance forged over the years and threaten the desire to live in French in Quebec and the will of the Quebec people to build a French language society in North America, the report stated.

The report rejects the Supreme Court of Canada suggestion that the government examine each student's educational pathway to determine which ones enrolled in non-subsidized private English language schools are eligible to enroll in public or private subsidized English language schools.

It is easier to control whether a school abides by the law than to evaluate each individual student's educational pathway, given that school cannot violate a law without having to face penalties, the report stated.