Supreme Court orders new French-language school in Abbotsford and improvement in Chilliwack – Abbotsford News


This story originally indicated that the decision concerned new French immersion schools. Indeed, the school managed by the French-speaking school board of British Columbia (CSF) is intended for the children of French-speaking people, who have the right everywhere in Canada to have schooling in French for their children.

The provincial government will need to create an all-French-language school in Abbotsford and significantly improve an below-average French school in Chilliwack after a landmark Supreme Court ruling earlier this month. A French secondary school in Central Fraser Valley will also need to be established at one of the primary schools.

The decision comes after a decade of legal disputes between the province and the school board in charge of French-language education in British Columbia – Conseil scolaire francophone de la Columbia-Columbia (CSF). The CSF had filed a lawsuit alleging that British Columbia had violated the guarantees of the Charter of rights and freedoms relating to education in the language of the minority.

The Supreme Court ruled that the children of francophone students in several places, including Abbotsford and Chilliwack, deserved homogeneous schools (francophone only) that were just as good as other local schools.

A similar previous decision was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which led to the Supreme Court hearing the case.

The Court of Appeal had ruled that there were not yet enough students in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Vancouver and Victoria to demand homogeneous schools. But the Supreme Court disagreed, noting that long-term student projections must be taken into account and that these forecasts show that communities need and deserve homogeneous schools.

The court ruled by a 7-2 majority that the current absence of a French-language school in Abbotsford “prevents the CSF from offering a comprehensive educational experience that is substantially equivalent to the experience in majority-language primary schools. neighbors ”.

The court ruled that students in Abbotsford are entitled to a French-language primary school that can accommodate at least 85 students. This school must provide “that provides an educational experience that is substantially equivalent to the experience in nearby majority language schools.”

The Chilliwack school also needs to be significantly improved or rebuilt in a different location. The court heard that the French-language school, École La Vérendrye, was in a state of “disrepair” and had been deprived of facilities common to other schools in the region. It has neither a library nor a gymnasium.

(Despite the presence of La Vérendrye school, several Chilliwack students are also enrolled in French immersion programs in mixed schools.)

The gymnasium rents space in a community hall, but getting students there is a complex process. This gym is also too small for basketball, so cold in the winter that jackets are sometimes needed and sometimes stink like alcohol.

The court had learned that the room could not be used either at the start of a week “because they would then have to deal with messy premises and the smell of alcohol as a result of community activities which would be held there on weekends “.

Books, meanwhile, are stored in a laptop, which is also used to house sports equipment.

While the building is in a “state of disrepair”, the school provides “high quality services in French”, with smaller classes than in other parts of the city, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal had said that the education provided at the school made up for the lack of glamor of the facilities and said that the size of the gymnasium and library was in fact larger than some comparable schools. . The Supreme Court ruled that the reasoning was wrong.

“The effect of applying this proportionality-based approach is to transform a gymnasium where most sports cannot be played and a library housed in a cramped portable classroom into facilities considered to be of sufficient quality.” , Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner said, writing for the majority.

“A weighing of the advantages and disadvantages of the French-language school in Chilliwack shows that the quality of the educational experience offered there is significantly lower than that of the experience in majority schools. A reasonable parent, even aware of the inherent characteristics of small schools, would likely be discouraged from enrolling their child in that school.

Chilliwack, the court ruled, needs an elementary school that can accommodate at least 60 students in a much better facility than the one currently available.

The CSF had also called for better French-language schools in Mission. But the Supreme Court said the same mistakes that allowed it to overturn the BC Court of Appeal ruling were largely absent when it came to Mission.

The Court of Appeal said the CSF had not provided enough evidence for a judge to assess the situation at the Mission school. The Supreme Court maintained this position, while declaring the situation to Mission “concerning”, in particular with regard to the undersized gymnasium at this school.

His decision on the Mission situation was simple: “Children of rights holders in the Mission area are entitled to an educational experience that is substantially equivalent to the experience in neighboring majority language schools.

Two judges disagreed with parts of the ruling – but argued that the Chilliwack school was “substantially inferior” to others in the area and that French-language students in Abbotsford were entitled to a homogeneous school .

The provincial education ministry released a statement saying:

“We respect the guidance and direction of the Supreme Court of Canada on minority language education rights. The decision is long and complex. We take the time to carefully review the decision, make sure we understand the court’s directions, and consider next steps.

“In recent years, the department and the CSF have primarily focused on the communities identified in the 2016 trial judgment, such as Vancouver, Sea to Sky, Penticton, Sechelt, Victoria and Abbotsford. In light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, we look forward to guidance from the FSB on how it will prioritize capital plan requests for rights holders.

Schools


Sylvester L. Goldfarb

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