The Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO) supports the new regulations governing French first language (FFL) schools that were announced on Monday and which give schools more responsibility over admissions, the commission said in a news release.
The new regulations for French schools, taking immediate effect for the 2020-2021 school year, include more clarity of the eligibility criteria for school admissions, a streamlined administrative process and a new 'francophile' admission category that permits the enrolment of non-rights holder students whose parents can demonstrate French speaking capability through an exam.
The new rules, announced by R.J. Simpson, minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE), were developed in consultation with education bodies, including the CSFTNO. These guidelines replace the previous ministerial directive on enrolment that was repealed on June 30.
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In a news release issued by the CSFTNO shortly after ECE's announcement, the commission said it's pleased with the changes and applauds Simpson's consultations with stakeholders.
"In addition to transferring the ability to decide on admission requests to the CSFTNO, the most significant gains concern the 'reacquisition' stream and the addition of a new 'francophile' category," said Simon Cloutier, CSFTNO chair.
"For the 'reacquisition' stream, instead of only targeting students with a French-speaking grandparent, this category now also allows the admission of students who have a French-speaking great-grandparent, which is essential to compensate for the losses in the number of rights holders in the NWT. The addition of the 'francophile' category will allow, for the first time in 12 years, a child of a francophile parent to be admitted to francophone schools."
But Cloutier said the new regulations have their flaws.
The "new arrival" stream still limits access to children born in Canada from immigrant parents whose first language isn't French, even though such applicants represented almost all admission requests in Yellowknife for the past two years.
"The regulation imposes a cap of 10 per cent on 'new arrival' and 'francophile' streams, as well as another cap which prohibits all admissions if a school reaches the threshold of 85 per cent of its capacity," Cloutier said.
The commission is, however, satisfied overall with the regulatory improvements and hopes to continue discussions to resolve other details.
“We have worked with education bodies to establish new regulations for admission to French first language education programs in the Northwest Territories," Simpson said. "These new regulations will provide clarity and certainty for education bodies and the public regarding registration in French first language schools.”
The new rules come just over a week after the GNWT said it would appeal a Supreme Court decision that found the government's approach to student access to French schools “irrational” and “illogical.”
That court case followed a decision from former education minister Caroline Cochrane in 2019, which denied six students access to the FFL program.
The rationale for the denial was that the program should be provided only to “rights-holders” – a directive in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that grants Canadians the right to have their children receive an education in the minority language of the province or territory in which they live.