The Northwest Territories government has released new regulations for admission to francophone schools in the territory.
According to a Monday GNWT news release, the regulations make the eligibility criteria clearer and streamline the administrative process.
Responsibility for that process is being delegated to the NWT’s francophone school board, the Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest [CSFTNO].
“We have worked with education bodies to establish new regulations for admission to French first-language education programs in the Northwest Territories. These new regulations will provide clarity and certainty for education bodies and the public regarding registration in French first-language schools,” NWT education minister RJ Simpson was quoted as saying.
Under the new regulations, a student is entitled to be registered in a francophone school if their parent is a rights holder. Parents are rights holders if their native language is French, they received elementary education in French in Canada, or their child has received elementary or secondary education in French in Canada.
There are four categories under the NWT regulations where children of non-rights holder parents can also apply for enrolment to francophone schools.
The first is “reacquisition,” when a student’s grandparent or great-grandparent is a rights holder. The second is “new arrival,” if a student is an immigrant to Canada, not a Canadian citizen, and does not have a parent whose first language is English.
The third is “non-citizen francophone,” when a student’s parent would be a rights holder but they are not a Canadian citizen or did not receive primary education in Canada.
Finally, the government has added the new category of “francophile,” where a student’s parent is proficient in French.
For students to be admitted to a francophone school under one or more of these categories, the total number of students registered with the school must be at less than 85 percent enrolment capacity. The school board must be satisfied that registering the student “would not adversely affect the cultural or linguistic integrity” of its French first-language education program.
The regulations state francophone schools cannot register more than 10 percent of the total number of students under the “francophone” and “new arrival” categories.
The school board said it was “pleased with the improvements” to the regulations, particularly transferring responsibility for admission decisions to the board, and the addition of the new “francophile” category.
“Even though this regulation is imposed upon us, we applaud minister Simpson for holding meaningful consultations with stakeholders. He has listened to our concerns and worked to address them in the new regulations,” board chair Simon Cloutier was quoted as saying.
“Overall, we are satisfied with the improvements and confident that we will be able to continue discussions to resolve other details that will result from the implementation of the regulation.”
The school board raised concerns, however, with the “new arrival” category limiting access to children born in Canada, where the parents are immigrants whose first language is not French. The board said that accounts for nearly all of the requests for admission to francophone schools in Yellowknife over the past two years.
The school board also took issue with the 10-percent cap on “new arrival” and “francophone” enrolment, along with the 85-percent enrolment capacity threshold for non-rights holder students.
“Despite several steps in the right direction, the CSFTNO questions the decision to quash ministerial discretion to exceptionally admit students beyond the criteria established by a minister, who must always act in furtherance of minority language education rights,” the school board stated.
The regulations come into effect immediately.
The new regulations replace a 2016 ministerial directive on French education that was recently repealed. According to the territorial government, around 20 non-rights holder children were admitted to francophone schools under that directive.
The NWT government is currently appealing an NWT Supreme Court decision requiring it to review the cases of six children who were denied admission to francophone schools in 2019.