[MEDIA ADVISORY] Government failing to uphold Constitutional Rights of Francophone Students

Victoria B.C. - For the past 15 years, the BC government has been unable to provide Francophone children in Vancouver with the quality of education they are constitutionally entitled to. Today Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, questioned the Minister of Education about why that is and when he will relocate the children to a facility that meets their Section 23 rights.

“After 15 years of frustration, parents whose children attend l’école Rose-des-vents are still being forced to send their students to a school with unacceptable conditions,” said Andrew Weaver. “They have won a Supreme Court case saying their charter rights are being infringed, and yet they still must contend with hearing that the government and School board are exploring different options.”

L’école Rose-des-vents was established in 2001 as a temporary primary school that was intended to house 199 students. For the 2015/16 school year there were 357 students enrolled.The school has limited outdoor space, inadequate washroom facilities, classrooms without windows, and has been forced to lease additional facilities from surrounding buildings, including a church basement.

“What is particularly frustrating is that parents have gone out of their way to avoid drawing out the process, only wanting to bring all parties to the table to address the infringement of their rights,” said Andrew Weaver. “It is unacceptable that they are still caught in a back and forth between the government and the School Board.”

Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees minority language rights, giving parents who fall under this right the entitlement to have their children taught in an equivalent educational facility to what they could receive in the majority language. Infringements of this right require urgent action on behalf of government. The Supreme Court of Canada Judgments noted that “...for every school year that governments do not meet their obligations under s. 23, that is an increased likelihood of assimilation and cultural erosion”.

“In many cases, these children’s french-speaking parents have been recruited for jobs in Vancouver because they are bilingual. They bring a valuable skill-set to the city, but have to fight to have their Francophone children educated in the language they speak at home. The problem is only getting worse,” said Andrew Weaver.

Francophone student numbers are going up, while enrollment for english-speaking schools in the rest of the city is going down.

In the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF; School District 93) “School District Facilities Plan”, dated November 2015, the board notes that one school is no longer sufficient. There is such a demand for elementary schooling that two catchment areas, each with its own elementary school are now required to ensure that the CSF is offering education that is of equivalent quality to that offered by the Vancouver School Board (School VSB; District 39) - something they have failed to do for 15 years.

“While it is encouraging that the Minister of Education’s recognizes the problem, I did not get the sense it is being addressed with the sense of urgency it deserves,” said Andrew Weaver. “Given excess capacity in Vancouver School Board schools, perhaps the Minister can help facilitate timely discussions between the Conseil Scolaire Francophone and the Vancouver School Board to move decisively to ensure and agreement is developed, and that parents at Rose-des-vents finally see their children taught in a acceptable facility.”

“We’ve faced similar challenges in Greater Victoria over the last few years,” pointed out Andrew Weaver. “Last year the Victoria School Board leased the recently closed Sundance Elementary to the CSF to meet growing demand. The CSF école Victor-Brodeur located, on the grounds of the old Harbour View Junior Secondary School, also expanded in 2012 into Lampson Street Elementary School that was closed in 2007”.

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Media Contact for Rose-des-vents
Joe Pagé - Rose-des-vents parent and lead plaintiff in the court action so far
Joe@adrianlaw.ca
1 604 264 4380

Media Contact for Andrew Weaver
Mat Wright – Press Secretary
Office of Andrew Weaver, MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@greenparty.bc.ca

Backgrounder

In 2001, Rose-des-Vents Primary School was temporarily placed on the site of Vancouver's future French-language secondary school. Fifteen years later Rose-des-Vents is still on site with inadequate facilities and no serious prospect of change.

In 2010, a group of Vancouver parents with children attending the Rose-des-Vents primary school took the Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF) and the provincial government to the BC Supreme Court. They petitioned the court to declare that lack of equivalency between the Rose-des-Vents school facilities are those offered to English parents living in the same catchment area constituted a breach of section 23 of the Canadian Charter which guarantees that people whose first language is French, or who have received their schooling in French, have the right to have their children educated in either English or French. The court ruled in their favour but was subsequently appealed by the province. 

In an April 2015 Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the BC Supreme Court ruling and declared that a Section 23 infringement had taken place. It was the parents hope that this would bring all parties to the table to find a solution, but the province has continued to fight the rulings. They are now seeking a Section 1, “reasonable limits”,  justification of a Charter breach.

BC supreme court judgment on the petition 2012 BCSC 1614; 

Appealed by the province of the BC Supreme Court judgment 2013 BCCA 407;

Appealed by the parents of the Court of Appeal decision, Supreme Court of Canada Judgement 2015 SCC 21

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