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Canada Supreme Court orders British Columbia to pay French-language school board $7.1 million
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Canada Supreme Court orders British Columbia to pay French-language school board $7.1 million

The Supreme Court of Canada ordered the British Columbia government on Friday to pay the province’s only French-language school board $6 million in damages and $1.1 million for operations.

Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie‑Britannique (CSF) is the only French‑language school board in British Columbia. There are 37 schools within the province, all of which fall under CSF’s territory.

In June 2010 CSF and some parents filed a notice of civil claim against British Columbia, alleging that aspects of the school’s funding infringed upon rights protected by Canada’s constitution. The infringements involved both systemic claims and claims for the purpose of obtaining new schools or improvements to existing schools in 17 communities.

The government stated that there were not enough students for new schools, that the existing schools were good enough, and that it would cost too much to provide all the services that CSF wanted.

The Supreme Court said that, to promote fairness and ensure public funds are spent wisely, minority-language students should generally get their own school if the government gave one to the same number of majority-language speakers elsewhere in the province. In British Columbia, there were enough students to justify eight new French-language schools. The Court also said that all children deserve the same opportunities, so minority- and majority-language students should get the same quality and experience at school.

The court ordered the government to pay CSF $6 million for not funding school buses, as well as $1.1 million because it had underfunded rural schools.