The annual report of the Quebec Ombudsperson, released today, includes substantial news for the schooling of undocumented children – those living without regular immigration status. It was revealed today that the government has “accepted all of the Quebec Ombudsman’s recommendations” on the subject (1). “While this represents a significant step forward, hundreds of children are still waiting for the day when they will be allowed to attend school. Instead of starting to implement recommendations, the government has so far done nothing” deplores Steve Baird of the Education Across Borders Collective.
“Minister Blais has failed to introduce legislation to date or to use his discretionary power to begin solving this problem. He could have for example sent clear directives to school boards. Instead, they continue to ask families to pay exorbitant fees” commented Steve Baird.
It is encouraging that the government has reaffirmed their recently announced intention to change the Education Act, and clarified that this is meant to “guarantee the right to free schooling” to all students who are “resident” in Quebec. However the Education Across Borders Collective also wishes to express ongoing concern around the still unknown definition of who “resides” in Quebec and how the changes will be implemented.
“Will students continue to be excluded from free schooling because they are considered to have an only temporary status? Will students continue to be asked for their immigration papers, even though we know this leads to families understanding that they are ineligible for free schooling” asks Steve Baird of the Education Across Borders Collective.
While the government has announced its intention to change the law and make related changes, timelines remain unclear. We call on the government to act to ensure that school boards have uniform practices, and that strong confidentiality measures be put in place, as recommended by the Ombudsperson (2). The extent and timing of promised changes remains unclear. It must be remembered that as the days go by, hundreds of students remain excluded from school.
1. Le Protecteur du Citoyen, 2014-2015 Annual Report, p. 46.
2. “That [the Ministry of Education] ensure that school boards do not overstep regulatory requirements for identification for enrolment, in particular, verification of the immigration status of the child or of the child’s parents.” Ibid. p. 46.