Hundreds if not thousands of children living in Quebec face considerable barriers in their access to education: they are charged $5000 to $6000 per year by the Ministry of Education in order to attend public schools. The Law on Public Education only provides free schooling to children who are covered by a list of immigration categories. This obstacle prevents many children without immigration status from accessing their fundamental right to education.
This Quebec law is in violation of obligations to ensure universal access to education without discrimination, as codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 28), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 13).
Quebec is exceptional in relation to most European countries and to the United States, where children without status can access schools. Even in the other largest Canadian cities, Toronto and Vancouver, measures have been taken to ensure free access to school for children without status.
Pushed to respond to this situation, the government of Quebec announced some new directives in June 2013. While they some restrictions were loosened, realities on the ground have not changed much. Most children without status are still excluded from the right to free schooling, namely those whose parents’ work or study permits expired over a year ago and those whose assylum claims have been refused and whose presence in the country is no longer permitted. For these children, the only solution is to appeal to case-by-case exceptions provided through school boards and the ministry, a far cry from universal access to schooling. Children continue to be excluded.
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