The supreme Court of Canada ruled that the provincial government did not respect the rights of francophones by under-funding their education system.
the arm of The iron court lasted ten years but, for the Franco-Colombian, the game was well worth the effort. It is with emotion that the defenders of the language of Molière, have welcomed the judgment handed down on 12 June by the supreme Court of Canada : the highest court in the country has indeed given reason to the francophone school Board of British Columbia (CSF), the Fédération des parents francophones de Colombie-Britannique (FPFCB) and three parents are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the provincial ministry of education that focused on the question of the financing of education in French - and, in fine, that of the survival of the francophone community in an anglophone community.
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The supreme Court has recognized that the government of British Columbia was funding not enough facilities educational francophones compared to those of the system of English. "It is a victory for the French-speaking parents who, since the creation of the FSB, claiming equivalent schools in many communities of the province, to offer our young people a French-language education is truly equivalent to that provided in schools of English language ( ... )" responded in a press release Suzana Straus, president of the Federation of parents.Your support is essential. Subscribe for $ 1 support Us
For The Express, the attorney of the plaintiffs, mr. Mark Power, reviews the history of this battle - and on the scope of the decision of the supreme Court, qualified as"historic" by the franco-colombian.
what were the reasons For the francophone parents in British Columbia have sued the provincial government ?
In Canada, the article 23 of the Charter of rights and freedoms accorded to members of minority language communities (francophone or anglophone) the right to an elementary and secondary education in their own language. In Quebec, this means that the provincial government should fund a school system for its English-speaking minority and, in the rest of Canada, this means that the provinces and territories are expected to do the same for their minority francophone and acadian (in Canada, education is a provincial responsibility, editor's NOTE).
British Columbia is one of the economic engines of the country and the province attracts many francophones and francophiles, both in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Thus, between the years 2000 and 2010, enrolment in French-language schools have experienced a very strong increase, while on the English side, the number of students was stable, or even decreased. Despite this boom in French, the provincial government refused to build or renovate the French-language schools, because it was not in English. This moratorium on construction of schools, detrimental especially to francophones who often found themselves in overcrowded facilities, outdated and ill-equipped.
In 2010, the francophone parents have said : "Enough is enough, we're not able to unblock the situation and to convince the public service to give us what we believe we have the right", so they turned to the courts. The judgment in the first instance - the trial lasted 240 days spread over three years, which is the longest process in the history of the province (outside of those involving aboriginal rights) - led progress but also of defeats. We have brought the defeats before the Court of appeal, which rejected our requests. As a last resort, so we addressed to the supreme Court of Canada. And his judgment is a resounding victory.
On what points the highest court of Canada-it gave reason to francophones ?
Three questions were raised before the supreme Court, and we all won. The first point touched on the criteria for the construction of a school : in the first instance, the judge had found that the minority was entitled to the equal only if the same number of students was enrolled in the school of a minority at the school for the majority. In summary, the construction of a school was justified in some parts of the province, but not in all. It was a very formalist, mathematical, equality. The supreme Court has held that the minority has a right to treatment truly equal, even if it is lower on the digital plan. The judges ruled that francophone students have to get their own school if the government has granted a somewhere in the province to a same number of English students. It is a vision of a more generous equality which opens the door to the construction of a series of smaller schools.
The second issue was financial : in the first instance, the judge had ruled that it would cost too much to implement the right to education in the minority because, in any case, this minority would disappear sooner or later. The supreme Court rejected this analysis and stated : "It may be expensive, but try to find the funds, follow the Constitution." It is also a major decision.
The third question touched on the funding of school transport, which is also known un moratorium for a decade. It should be noted that francophone students do not usually have access to a neighbourhood school (as opposed to anglophone students), and may not, therefore, go on foot or by bike. Thus, it is the CSF which, during ten years, has financed the transport, knowing that the number of students was steadily increasing... In the first instance, the judge had concluded that this situation was so unfair and discriminatory that it should be the subject of a conviction for damages. But this decision was reversed on appeal. The supreme Court has restored the order, and condemned the British Columbia to pay approximately $ 7 million to the CSF. This is a record but also an important step on the level of principles, a very strong signal to the public service : that has interest to implement the Constitution in good time because otherwise, it may be expensive... The default action is now quantifiable.
how this judgment is important for the francophones of British Columbia ?
For parents francophones living in anglophone environments, the school is the only reasonable hope of transmitting the French language and culture. Without school, this minority will disappear. The judgment of June 12, gives, for the first time, reason to believe that the future of French is insured in British Columbia.
in practical terms, this means that new schools will be created in Vancouver, in Victoria but also in the smaller cities of the province. The funding of school transport will be better, so that students will take less time to get to the school. The attractiveness of the French-speaking schools will be strengthened and parents will no longer be forced to choose between a quality school and the transmission of their language and their culture. The workforce is going to increase and the rate of uptake will decrease. In the end, this will give a French-speaking community more rich.
The FSB of British Columbia brought together about 3,000 students when the dispute began. Today, there are more than 6,000, and we can estimate that they will be 12 000 to 18 000 in ten or twenty years. The CSF will become a big player that can't be ignored by the provincial government and other school districts. The report of the force will change and, in the long term, this will help to ensure the quality of education.
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what's more, the decision of the supreme Court applies to the whole of Canada : this means that we can expect positive effects for the linguistic minorities throughout the country...