N.W.T. gov't wins appeal of 2018 move to deny non-rights holders entry into French school

Minister of Education, Culture and Employment R.J. Simpson. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Minister of Education, Culture and Employment R.J. Simpson. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A Court of Appeal has sided with the N.W.T. government in its 2018 decision to deny several non-rights holders entry into the Francophone school system.

The territory wrote in a news release Monday morning that the decision by the Court of Appeal from Sept. 1 "confirms" the then-minister's decisions in 2018 "were reasonable and reinstates both ministerial decisions."

"I appreciate the greater certainty and clarity provided by the recent Court of Appeals decision," said R.J. Simpson, minister of education, culture and employment, in the release.

"Moving forward, I will continue to focus on building upon a renewed relationship with the Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest surrounding admission of non-rights holders into the N.W.T.'s Francophone schools."

A "rights-holder" is somebody who has access to the constitutionally-protected right to minority-language education under Section 23 of the Charter.

In May 2019, a judicial review took place by Northwest Territories Supreme Court Justice Paul Rouleau. At the time, he ruled that the minister erred by not considering whether the case presented factors and circumstances that could lead to exercising discretion. The decision was appealed in 2020.

The territory says even though regulations around the admission of non-rights holders were recently updated, the recent decision in September further clarifies the role of the minister when it comes to assessing which students can attend French first language education.

The release says Simpson intends to work with the N.W.T. Francophone school board to "consider appropriate next steps to mitigate any potential educational impacts on the students and families involved."

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