Kahnawake prepares a Bill 96 workaround

·2 min read
Robin Delaronde, director of education at the Kahnawake Education Center, said Kahnawake won't tolerate the impact of Bill 96 on its young people. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC - image credit)
Robin Delaronde, director of education at the Kahnawake Education Center, said Kahnawake won't tolerate the impact of Bill 96 on its young people. (Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC - image credit)

The Kahnawake Education Center is exploring the idea of offering a Grade 12 program as a way to get around new French-language course requirements at junior colleges — CEGEPs — introduced by Bill 96, the CAQ government's law to protect the French language.

"Kahnawake will not tolerate the impacts this legislation will have upon our youth and their success," Robin Delaronde, the director of education, said in a statement.

"This unfortunate and oppressive legislation enacted by Quebec upon the original people of these lands will not deter our goal to support our students on any life and career path they choose," she said.

Educators and students in Kahnawake and in other Indigenous communities across Quebec have complained that the new mandatory French-language courses introduced in CEGEPs will put those students at a disadvantage.

For many of them, French is a third language, as they study in elementary and high school in Indigenous languages and in English.

Some have asked for an exemption from Bill 96.

The Quebec government has maintained the new law doesn't affect the right of Indigenous communities in Quebec to develop and maintain their language and culture.

Many private schools in Montreal have been offering Grade 12 programs for years. They allow students to graduate with a recognized Ontario secondary school diploma, which enables students to apply directly to university without attending CEGEP first.

But since Bill 96 was introduced, more private schools have said they'll introduce Grade 12 as a means of circumventing the bill, and now Kahnawake is looking at it as well, saying it's exploring the option.

Education Ministry shuts down idea

A spokesperson for Education Minister Jean-François Roberge responded to CBC in an email, saying the government intends to close this loophole.

"This offer of Grade 12 educational services is not authorized by either the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Higher Education," Florent Tanlet, the minister's spokesperson said.

"It is forbidden to promote these services since they are not authorized by a competent minister and therefore cannot be mentioned on the establishment's permit," Tanlet said.

"The ministry will carefully monitor the development of the situation and take inventory of the establishments offering these programs," he said.

Roberge had previously said the government would "not tolerate the circumvention of the French language charter" in response to a question about Grade 12 programs at private schools.

Delaronde said that's not a deterrent.

"Kahnawake and specifically the Kahnawake Education Center, are in a unique position to circumvent the charter should it be challenged by the provincial government, unlike provincial schools offering Grade 12 programs," she said.

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