SHERBROOKE — Montreal’s young Liberals are proposing to loosen the rules of the French Language Charter to allow normally inadmissible francophone students into the English school system as a way of keeping it alive.
Noting the current prohibition — which restricts access to English schools to the children of parents who studied at an English school of Canada – has substantially reduced the the occupancy rate of English schools even forced some to close, the Liberals are proposing the wall be taken down.
A resolution to that effect is up for debate this weekend at the youth’s annual policy convention being held at Bishop’s University. About 300 youths are attending.
There is no guarantee the resolution — which would amount to non-binding advice to the Liberal government — will pass the plenary or even be debated given time limitations.
But the intention is clear with the resolution noting a significant number of francophone schools are suffering from an overcapacity, while the English system has room to spare. The plan would be to set up a pilot project to allow “a limited number of students” to study in the English system.
“In the context of globalization, the English public school-network is an asset for Quebec which can make young people skilled in English and connected to the world,” the resolution states.
The resolution was drafted by young Liberals from Montreal.
Arriving for the conference, Premier Philippe Couillard did not completely close the door to the idea that would certainly cause waves in nationalist circles and among language hawks.
Off the top, Couillard did not agree it amounts to creating a hole in the charter that turns 40 years old in August.
“I don’t think this is what is being asked,” Couillard told reporters. “I think there are things the two communities can do together. We’ll let youth do their debates.
“We know there are different demographics in the two communities and differences in their school capacities (meaning francophone schools are overflowing and English ones have room).
“But dropping parts of Bill 101 is out of the question.”
Education Minister Sébastien Proulx has not yet commented on the idea.
If adopted, the plan would not apply universally. Only students of parents making a specific request to the education ministry would be eligible. Their names would be put on a list.
Fresh census data published by Statistics Canada this month shows an increase in the percentage of Montreal area residents who have English as a mother tongue and a decline in French mother tongue.