The N.W.T.'s education minister has announced new regulations for admission to French language schools in the territory.
In a news release Monday, R.J. Simpson announced that the new regulations will come into effect immediately for the 2020-21 school year. The release states that the regulations were developed in consultation with education bodies like the territory's French school board Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO).
The chair of the school board, Simon Cloutier, said the new regulations are the result of a more collaborative approach Simpson has brought to discussions around which students have the right to attend the two French schools in the territory.
"For the first time since 2008 we had a real consultation and collaboration with the minister of education," said Cloutier. "Because of that consultation, we have a regulation that responds much more to the needs of the francophone schools."
Simpson's predecessors, including current Premier Caroline Cochrane, took a more restrictive approach to who can and cannot attend French schools, an approach that led to ongoing court battles.
Simpson was not immediately available for an interview.
According to the news release, the new regulations include:
- "Greater clarity" on eligibility criteria for admission.
- Streamlined administrative process.
- Delegation of responsibility for the admissions process to the French school board.
- New "Francophile" admission category to allow non-rights holder students "whose parent(s) can demonstrate ability to speak French through an exam."
A "rights-holder" is somebody who has access to the constitutionally-protected right to minority-language education under Section 23 of the charter.
"These new regulations will provide clarity and certainty for education bodies and the public regarding registration in French First Language schools," said Simpson in the news release.
This news comes as students head back to school and the Education Department is in a back-and-forth with the courts about the denial of six children into N.W.T.'s francophone schools.
In July, Supreme Court Justice Paul Rouleau ruled in favour of the five families with six children and the CSFTNO, to reassess "unreasonable" denial of these students into French schools in Yellowknife and Hay River last summer. In his ruling, Rouleau concluded that the refusal was based on "illogical considerations," on an "irrational analysis," and on grounds that do not demonstrate proper respect for Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Aug. 21, Simpson said the government would file an appeal, disputing the judge's findings.