The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages
Urgent demand for French education in B.C. unfulfilled
May 31, 2017
Vancouver – The federal government is not assuming its leadership role to ensure access to French first-language and French second-language education in British Columbia, the Senate Committee on Official Languages said in a report released today.
The committee’s report, Horizon 2018: Toward Stronger Support of French-language Learning in British Columbia, makes 17 recommendations on which the federal government should act in order to live up to its obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under the Official Languages Act. The B.C. government, with federal government support, should also work with French-language education stakeholders to implement the report’s recommendations.
The committee’s recommendations apply to francophone schools, French immersion programs and B.C.’s French-speaking community, including francophones and francophiles, and the support to which they are entitled.
B.C. parents with the right to have their children educated in French first-language under section 23 of the Charter face a shortage of schools, or schools that are overcrowded and aged — leaving their children with the risk of losing their linguistic birthright.
With regard to French immersion programs, B.C. parents who do not have constitutionally-guaranteed rights but who want their children to receive French second-language education also face major access barriers.
The federal government must commit to fostering the full recognition and use of French, one of Canada’s two official languages, as well as to supporting the development of B.C.’s francophone community.
It is essential for the federal government, with the support of its provincial counterpart, to oversee the implementation of constitutionally-guaranteed rights by ensuring citizen’s access to French first-language education, from early childhood to post-secondary. It is also necessary to give the opportunity for all young Canadians to become bilingual by giving them access to French immersion programs.
In 2018, the federal government will renegotiate the Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction with the provinces and territories.
It is an opportunity for the federal and provincial governments to prove they are serious about addressing the inadequacies present in B.C. and across the country. The next multi-year official languages plan will also be announced in 2018.
In this context, the commitment to promoting Canada’s two official languages, which are the core of the Canadian identity, must be resoundingly restated.
- In British Columbia it is estimated that only 25% to 30% of the children of section 23 of the Charter rights holders are enrolled in francophone schools.
- Attendance in B.C.’s francophone schools has increased by 75% in the last 20 years; demand for French immersion programs has grown by 65% over the same time period.
- Vancouver’s École Rose-des-vents is overcrowded; 350 students are packed into a space meant for 200 and it’s estimated that 1,200 children in the school’s large catchment area could be eligible to attend.
“Our report focused on British Columbia but our findings are relevant to the entire country. This year, Canada is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation and 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Official Languages Act. There could be no more appropriate time for the federal government to commit to promoting Canada’s two official languages, which are at the core of the Canadian identity.”
- Senator Claudette Tardif, Chair of the committee
“Throughout our study, we heard from young people who wish to live their lives to the fullest in French. These young francophones and francophiles are calling on the governments to provide them with the necessary support so they can thrive in French at school, at the post-secondary level and through cultural, sporting and community activities. It’s time to take action.”
- Senator Raymonde Gagné, Member of the committee
- Read the report, Horizon 2018: Toward Stronger Support of French-language Learning in British Columbia.
- The report builds on the committee’s 2015 study on best practices for language policy called Aiming Higher: Increasing bilingualism of our Canadian Youth.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #OLLO.
- Sign up for the Senate’s eNewsletter.
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