English community calling for English eligibility certificates to be given after high school due to impact of Bill 96 on CEGEPS

“I have not seen a government that does something to diminish minority rights every single week,” says lawyer Julius Grey as Quebec denies English eligibility certificates to students if they apply after high school. Swidda Rassy reports.

By News Staff & Swidda Rassy

English community leaders are calling on the Quebec government to issue English eligibility certificates to students after high school. They say it is necessary with Bill 96 – Quebec’s amendment to the French language law – and its impact on English CEGEPS.

Under Quebec’s Charter of the French Language a student is eligible to attend English school in Quebec at the primary and secondary level if they, a sibling, or a parent did the majority of their schooling in English in Canada.

This is proved with an English eligibility certificate, which allows one to enroll in English school, and must be obtained by Quebec’s education ministry. Now, under Bill 96, the English eligibility certificates are also important at the CEGEP level.

Students without eligibility certificates at English CEGEPS must pass the same French exit exam as French CEGEPS. There are concerns this could hinder their ability to obtain their degree. In the past English CEGEP students passed English exit exams.

“Studying in English and speaking English are two different things. People can have good comprehension and good pronunciation and can speak but studying for an exam, under the stress of an exam, it creates a barrier. Students are worried about their success on the tests,” explained Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director general of the Quebec Community Groups Network in an interview with CityNews.

As of September 2024, those with English eligibility certificates will also be prioritized for admission to English CEGEPS and it will not be mandatory for them to take three core program French courses.

The English community says it is crucial to obtain those English eligibility certificates, after high school, even if the students went to French primary and secondary school.

The Quebec Education Ministry explained to The Gazette that to obtain a English eligibility certificate the student must apply through an English school board, and be enrolled in a Quebec school.

“A student must therefore have been declared eligible for education in English before the end of their secondary studies in Quebec,” the ministry told the Gazette.

“The message that students in English speaking communities are receiving is the government is not helping our students reach their full potential. These constitute barriers that worry Quebecers about their place in Quebec,” added Martin-Laforge. 

Lawyer Julius Grey challenges the legality of demanding such certificates. Explaining that people might not be entitled to the certificate but they are entitled to all the rights that the certificate brings.

“Section 23 of the charter gives you the right to educate your children in English if you’ve been educated. It doesn’t depend on Quebec giving the certificate. It depends on the facts. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable to try to take people’s rights away by insisting on some certificate that’s not part of the law and which certainty is not part of the constitution.” 

Grey plans on taking this fight to court on behalf of a case he did not want to comment on.

“We will be going to the Tribunal administratif du Quebec to ask that they either order their certificate or that the certificate doesn’t matter and that you got rights under the charter whether or not you have the certificate. So, we are definitely going to bring this to the Tribunal and if this doesn’t work, it’ll be going to the Superior Court and all the way up if necessary, ” he said.

CityNews reached out to the Quebec education ministry for comment and has not yet heard back.

‘’The CAQ government’s decision to deny a certificate of eligibility after high school to English-speaking Quebecers who have chosen to send their children to school in French is deplorable. How does penalizing these families advance the cause of French? Quite the opposite. It’s absurd and unproductive. It is yet another administrative hassle brought on by Bill 96,” said Gregory Kelley, Liberal MNA for Jacques Cartier and Official Opposition Critic for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers.

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