Province could go to court, if P.E.I. French Language School Board chooses

Province could go to court, if P.E.I. French Language School Board chooses

P.E.I.'s French Language School Board (CSLF) is now free to take the provincial government to court if it chooses, but the board hopes to avoid that if it can have productive conversations with the province.

Back in April, the CSLF filed a formal notice to sue the provincial government over federal funds the board says it is entitled to. 

"This is not a legal action, it's an intention of legal action," said board president Emile Gallant. 

"Basically it tells the province we'd like to be able to sit down. After five years of trying to get some negotiations going and we had nothing moving it was our next step.''

At the time, the CSLF gave the province the required 90 days notice. The period of notice ended Friday, and the board now has the option of taking legal action.

Money a major sticking point

The board's concerns revolve around the Official Languages in Education Program, an agreement between the provincial and federal governments. That agreement saw Ottawa invest $1.5 million annually, and called on the province to invest the same amount. 

But the board argues that those funds haven't been spent how they should be, saying the money has instead been spent on day-to-day operations.

"The extra funds that the federal government has put forward for extras is for helping develop the cultural side of education that we're responsible for as a school board," explained Gallant. 

The agreement was up at the end of March, and the board is also demanding to be at the table during the next negotiations. It is also asking for better reporting around where the money is spent. 

Want to avoid court 

While the board can now take further action through the courts, Gallant says that's something he wants to avoid. 

"Past court cases when it comes to French language education are three, four year processes. And at the end of the day, it costs a lot of money." 

The board recently had elections, and hopes the minister will attend its August meeting to start discussions. 

Government open to meet 

In a statement to CBC a spokesperson for the department of education says it feels it is in the right. 

"The Department is confident that it has met and continues to meet its constitutional obligations to French language education, and remains committed to a co-operative and constructive working relationship with the CSLF," the statement said. 

The department also said it is open to meet with the CSLF, and said its lawyer contacted the board's lawyer about a meeting, but hasn't heard back yet.

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