QUÉBEC CITY, Jan. 29, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) convened a news conference today to signal its very serious concern that the current government is actively exploring ways to limit access to English schooling for children of Quebec-based military personnel. Since the adoption of Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, in 1977, the law has guaranteed temporary access to English schooling for military families.
This honorable and fair exemption is unconditional, and results in some 750 current student registrations within the nine English school boards of Quebec. The vast majority of those students, from military families stationed at Val Cartier and Bagotville are in schools of the Central Québec School Board. QESBA met the media today, with the Chair of that school board, to call on this government to respect the law.
QESBA insists that the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports assure QESBA, military families across Quebec and in the rest of Canada, as well as the public at-large that this government will continue to grant unconditional temporary access to English schools for the children of military families stationed in Québec, regardless of where they grew up in Canada.
You will remember that this government recently proposed to eliminate this historic right under its proposed amendments to Bill 101 contained in Bill 14. That specific change elicited widespread condemnation and was withdrawn, along with Bill 14 in its entirety. Now, the government appears to be behaving as if its Bill 14 amendments had been adopted. Well, they haven't been, and the law is clear. QESBA has learned that a number of military families seeking English schooling were told by officials from the Ministère de l'Éducation to fill in reports, explain their circumstances and defend their requests for temporary access to English schooling. They have been told to prove that their military stay is, in fact, temporary.
QESBA can only presume that this practice has been implemented at the instructions of the Minister, who is clearly responsible for operations and decisions of the Bureau d'admissibilité à l'école anglaise. That is unacceptable and, we submit, inadmissible under the law. First, Bill 101, in the regulation implementing section 72, states that all military personnel, without any restriction based on their place of birth or their language spoken, have temporary eligibility to English schooling in Quebec. Second, that status is based on the very particular, unpredictable and often dangerous nature of military employment. When you sign up to serve your fellow citizens through military service, your deployment beyond Quebec's borders could come at any time and without prior notice.
As noted clearly in the following directive from the Canadian Forces, and I quote: "Military families are required to geographically relocate on a recurring basis. These relocations occur at the discretion of the Canadian Forces in response to its organizational and operational needs.
The Canadian Forces decides when a family will be posted, where it will be posted to, and the length of time it will spend there. Most Canadian Forces members relocate repeatedly throughout their military service to locations and during timeframes over which they have little input." That reality explains why René Levesque and every Premier who succeeded him implemented and maintained this key exemption in Bill 101.
Today we are calling upon Education Minister Marie Malavoy and Premier Pauline Marois to clearly instruct the Bureaucracy of the Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport to grant military personnel temporary access to English schooling without any preconditions beyond those outlined in Bill 101 as it stands. We want immediate assurance that military families - be they native French Quebecers or other Canadians stationed in Quebec - will continue to be fully protected by this temporary exemption.
QESBA and its Central Québec School Board partners are not asking for any special treatment under current language legislation; quite the contrary. We are sounding an alarm about an apparent abuse of existing language legislation: The Bill 101 regulation on this matter could not be more clear:
It says, "….
" A child who stays in Quebec temporarily because he is a dependent child of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who is assigned to Quebec temporarily shall be exempted from the application of the first paragraph of Section 72 of the Charter if an Affidavit by the employer certifying that the parent is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and that he is assigned to Quebec temporarily and the document demonstrating that the child is a dependent child of that Canadian Armed Forces member are filed."
Central Québec has learned from a number of military families seeking English schooling recently that they have been subject to bureaucratic enquiries and delays that have no basis in law, and we want government assurances that this will stop. Bill 14 has been scrapped, and this government cannot pretend or act otherwise. Central Québec School Board is proud to prepare every one of its students for a future in French as well as English in Quebec.
If we are to continue to contribute to Quebec's future, we must be assured that the military exemption, entrenched in law, will not be flouted in practice. The estimated 700 military families who have children in our schools represent about 20 per cent of our over-all population. Losing them would be a major blow to Central Québec's future.
It is important to note that the students of military families, like every student at Central Québec, learn in an environment that ensures their mastery of both French and English. With a high-school completion rate of 83 per cent, Central Québec's students consistently rank amongst the top five Boards in Quebec. Our students are staying in school and graduating with the language and learning skills they will need to contribute to Quebec's future. Our students from military families are an important part of that success story.
Our concerns were first prompted by a ruling on an individual military case by the Tribunal administratif du Québec. That ruling, in very specific circumstances, incorrectly called into question the totality of military exemptions. The Cabinet has decided to re-examine its procedures in light of this faulty judgment. Consequently, QESBA is looking for Ministerial assurance on two things:
Can QESBA be assured that, effective immediately, military families in Quebec will only be required to provide proof of their military employment in Quebec - regardless of rank or job description, duly confirmed by an appropriate military officer where they are stationed. That is exactly as specified in existing Bill 101 regulations. QESBA invites the Minister and any member of the media to contact any Canadian Armed Forces authority, up to and including the federal Minister of Defense, to confirm that ANY and ALL military assignment in Quebec or elsewhere is, by definition, temporary and subject to unexpected change and, thus, subject to the Bill 101 exemption. Second, can the Minister assure us that there are no plans to alter the current forms that military parents must complete, in such a way as to question the character or circumstances of their military employment?
QESBA is the voice of English public education in Québec, representing some 100,000 students.
SOURCE: Quebec English School Boards Association
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