Canada Supreme Court declares Quebec language education law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Thursday unanimously struck down [judgment text; press release] a Quebec law restricting certain students' access to English-language schools as unconstitutional. The court's decision overturns Bill 104 [text], enacted by the Quebec government in 2002, rejecting two appeals by the Quebec government to protect the legislation. The controversial law was adopted to promote the French language in Quebec and closed a loophole in Bill 101 [text], which had allowed parents to enroll ineligible students in English-language public schools by first sending them to private English school for at least one year. The law was originally ruled unconstitutional [judgment text] by the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2007 for violating section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [official website], which guarantees minority-language educational rights. The Supreme Court is suspending the law for one year to allow Quebec's National Assembly to review and replace the legislation.

Quebec's strict language education laws have long been an issue of political debate. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld [JURIST report] Bill 101 itself, which requires French-speaking parents to send their children to francophone schools. Under the bill, parents must have received the majority of their own schooling in English to be able to have their children educated in that language. Eight families had sought to prove that Bill 101 was discriminatory in precluding their children from receiving an education in English. The court found that members of the linguistic majority have no constitutional right to an education in English, the minority language in Quebec.

 

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