SOS: Save Our Schools
advocates for all parents wishing to educate their children in the minority
language of their choice. In Québec, this means enrolling children in English
language instruction. We wish to take the discussion beyond the current debate
and encourage French parents to send their children to English school, also.
However, the laws stand in our way.
The British North America Act guaranteed minority language education across Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, continued this important right. The Québec education system moved from confessional school boards to language-based boards, and this precipitated the decline in enrollment in English schools since 1998. The Supreme Court, last year, overturned the abolishment of the "écoles passerelles" loophole in the law, saying the whole intent was unconstitutional. This further eroded the English language system, as many immigrants decided to leave the province. English schooling was simply out of the question for the French Québecois.
The Québec government has tried to protect French language supremacy in the province and has severely restricted admission to English schools. French Québecois are only allowed to register their children in French language schools. Wealthy immigrants and French Québecois have been able to sidestep the law by choosing nonsubsidized schools for their children in the first year of primary school. They have been able to transfer their children into the public system after one year. Presently, the Liberal government has increased this one-year clause to a three-year period, followed by a case-by-case assessment by a government bureaucrat.
Since 1998, the Greater Montreal area has witnessed the closing of 15 English schools. The total enrolment has dropped from 250,000 students in 1971 to
101,000 today. This figure does not represent the decline in the total population but the decrease in eligible students. The Québec government, since the advent of Bill 22 under Premier Robert Bourassa, has tried to deny minority language education to immigrants, French Québecois and Canadians moving into the province.
Whereas SOS advocates for the protection of English heritage in Québec, we acknowledge the need for French Québecois to maintain their language in our province. French was indeed the second language in Québec at the time that English economic domination reigned in the province. English was the language of the "Masters" and French Québec needed to assert their self-determination. "Mâitres chez nous" (translated as, "masters in our own house") was the slogan; since the Quiet Revolution of the sixties, the language of the social and economic reality of the province is French. It has been a brilliant recovery. Now, our province is ready for the next stage of cultural and commercial development; globalization will ensure a healthy future. Moreover, English is the global language.
"Learning English with 29 other small Tremblays who talk French when the prof has her back turned, this doesn't permit me to watch Mad Men without subtitles." Patrick Lagacé.
In a recent opinion piece in LaPresse, Patrick Lagacé muses that English is like a cold virus in a daycare on a January morning. Pragmatists will agree that learning English is not a threat to Québec, but isolating ourselves in a French only ghetto will cut us off from the world platform.
SOS advocates that all Québecois must retain the right to choose the language of education for their children. In fact, this must include the minority languages of First Nations and Inuit. French families must be allowed to educate their children in English, if they wish. French or English Immersion and bilingual instruction must be open to everyone without compromising their Charter rights.
We urge all Québecois to contact their MNAs to protest the last round of assaults on their Charter rights. Bill 115 must be set aside and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be respected in Québec. If we don't reverse the current trend, we will demolish the system of mutual respect for minority languages across Canada. Our freedom to choose is at stake, and our future is threatened.