Towards a first French education law in Canada

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia could become the first province in Canada to pass a separate French-language education bill, as a bill was introduced in the Nova Scotian Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. This practice could be a step forward for Canada’s education system by serving as a model for other provinces.

If passed, it could mean that the Acadians of the Atlantic Province would henceforth be masters at setting up and teaching their school programs, funding schools, and recruiting school staff. In addition, it would ensure a number of students and schools representative of the weight of the Acadian population.

“It would protect Francophonie for the present and next generation of Nova Scotian children. It would give us the tools we need to continue to promote and improve the francophone language and culture that has existed for 400 years, so that it will be preserved for the next 400 years,” explains the Director General of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) Michael Collette.

“It will serve as a point of reference so that Francophones and Acadians can also improve their education law” – Mark Power, Attorney

Currently, the challenges faced by academic schools are mixed with anglophones in a unified education system, notes Mr. Collette. This bill will ensure Acadians have their voice at the table, he adds.

“There are many decisions that the government makes that may or may not go against the needs of our students and our teachers. Although our needs are similar, they are fundamentally different from those of English speakers. »

This type of bill is “in a way a gift” for the country’s French-speaking population, CSAP lawyers believe.

“It will serve as a point of reference so that Francophones and Acadians can also improve their education law,” says Juriste Power’s attorney Mark Power

Complaints by Francophones to the various judicial authorities in the country regarding the teaching of French in a minority environment have multiplied in recent years. We can think of the victory of the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique in 2020. After a decade-long battle, the Supreme Court ruled that the provincial government had chronically underfunded British Columbia’s French-language schools.

“We were recently taught in British Columbia that the real estate needs of Francophones and Acadians must be analyzed without comparing them to the needs of the majority. In practice, this does not happen often. There is no education law that codifies this process, which is much fairer and more just for Francophones. This bill does that,” says Power.

There was also the fall of the Francophones in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. In this case alone, which has been in the works for four years, CSAP sought three legal opinions from retired judges from the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeals to “address multiple concerns not reasoned by technocrats.”

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Political ordeal

This bill, introduced by Liberal and Acadian MP Ronnie Leblanc from the official opposition, must have the approval of the progressive Conservative government, which has a majority. In 2018, Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government signaled its intention to create this law as part of its reform of the education system.

“This is a case that goes beyond politics. We want politicians to take a stand, regardless of party, to protect Nova Scotia’s Acadian Francophonie.”

For the lawyers, this legislation would fill the gap between each province’s Education Act and the provisions of Section 23 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantee education in the minority language.

“The situation is inappropriate because school authorities increasingly have very professional and well-functioning systems and, on the one hand, achieve very serious academic results. On the other hand, the legal framework is aging and less able to enable our educational and community leaders to ensure the sustainability and development of French,” said Mr Power.

Juristes Power Law attorney Mark Power.
mark power, Lawyer at Juristes Power . courtesy

For the school board, the fact that Acadians have demonstrated that they can be “on the same level and even better than Anglophones” in the current education system shows the merit of this greater independence.

“This legislation would give Acadia and Nova Scotia’s Francophonie all the tools they need to secure their future for at least several generations in primary and secondary education,” said the language rights advocate.

The Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the only French-language one in Nova Scotia, has 22 schools with nearly 6,000 students.

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