The Education Across Borders Collective believes that Bill 86 (An Act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and ensure parents’ presence within each school board’s decision-making body) is unsatisfactory for the following reasons:
1 – It continues to place Quebec in contradiction to its national and international obligations, by continuing to deny children’s right to free education, regardless of immigration status. In contrast, this right is respected in most countries.
2 – The continued exclusion of categories of children from free education will penalize some of the poorest and most vulnerable families. The financial barrier to access primary and secondary schools is maintained (at $5,566 to $6,962 per child per school year).
3 – Checking children’s immigration status before enrolling them in school will cause children to continue to be excluded from Quebec schools. Many families fear to disclose that they are non-status, and some have already been threatened with being reported to immigration authorities.
4 – The continued complexity of the law and its regulations – including exemptions to exemptions – will invariably lead to continued discriminatory and arbitrary practices.
To solve these problems, the Education Across Borders Collective proposes that the law be modified to recognize the right to free primary and secondary schools for all children, without discrimination.
The Collective has prepared a memoire in which it presents its arguments and recommendations. It is available (in French only) at the following link:
Bill 86 does not respect universal access to free education without discrimination, as embodied in instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13) or the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 28) to which Québec has declared itself bound by the adoption of Decree 1676-91 (on December 9th, 1991).
“If the bill passes in its current form, we know children who will continue to be barred from schools. For many families with modest revenues, sending kids to school will remain virtually impossible,” explains Anne Buisson, a member of the Education Across Borders Collective. Indeed, the bill maintains the financial barrier for children who have the immigration status of “visitor”, including many families who are waiting for a status that would allow them to work and study.
The Bill would require families to prove that they are undocumented in order to qualify for free schooling. Even for families who believe they can somehow proove their lack of status, fear of being denounced and deported will continue to keep children out of school (or cause them to be removed from school due after a change in status). Under the Bill, each school and school board will continue to police children’s immigration status. “There will definitely continue to be children excluded from schools if the current Bill is adopted. It’s unacceptable,” laments Steve Baird, a member of the Education Across Borders Collective. The risk of denunciation is real, as is the use of this threat by school employees: both have already happened in Montreal to families accompanied by the Collective.
The current Bill would complexify an already obtuse and poorly understood system, leading to even more common discressionary and unequal practices by schools and school board employees. “Among the families we have accompanied, some were clearly eligible for free schooling under the regulations in force, but were told they could not enroll without paying” says Steve Baird of the Education Across Borders Collective. Bill 86 will exacerbate this problem.