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Start at the British Conquest of 1760 – when Quebec fell to the rule of a British minority. Forward through the waves of migration from the British Isles. Arrive in the mid-20th century, when English prevalence within and surrounding Quebec caused concern of culture loss.
By the 1960’s, the Quiet Revolution sparked linguistic assertion within modern Quebec. A rise in Quebecois nationalism and the ground breaking election won by the Parti Quebecois all boiled up to the Charter of the French Language. A turning point in Quebec’s cultural preservation. Intensely controversial, “Bill 101” was passed in August, 1977. However, as the Charter nears its forty-second anniversary, a considerable portion of the population remains uninformed about its direct implications.
In its early years, many saw the law as discriminatory and unconstitutional. Today, fear of the law has abated and what was once a boiling pot has been reduced to a simmer; nonetheless, it has faced over 200 legal challenges and seven amendments.
Indeed, much of the tension can be linked to one of its most contentious sections: access to education. The law limits most Quebec citizens’ ability to enrol their children in English elementary and high schools. Owing to the recognition that French education is fundamental to future generations, the section hoped to ensure that Quebecois would remain connected and committed to the preservation of the French language. Here is how it works:
First and foremost, any student is granted the right to attend English, non-government funded private schools, or any English post-secondary establishment, based on certain legal stipulations. Otherwise, the child must meet one of the following:
- Children with a right under law: The child is entitled if he/she, or one of their siblings/parents attended school in English for a large portion of elementary schooling. Also, they can attend if their parents were eligible to attend English school after 1977 – in other words, when the enactment of the charter took place. Finally, the bill also respects the grandfather clause – meaning that it applies to all future generations of the possessor.
- Special authorization: If the child has serious learning disabilities or if he/she suffers from emotional/physical harm from detrimental family/humanitarian circumstances
*only eligible for this category if refused by one of the prior criteria. The child must also receive an examination by the Special Committee of Quebec Education Department.
- Temporarily in Quebec: Provided that one of the child’s parents is temporarily working or studying in Quebec, on a diplomatic mission, or temporarily relocated by the Canadian Armed Forces.
If eligible under these criteria, the parent/guardian must apply to the school board or private school in their area before the child be enrolled. In our area, it’s the Eastern Townships School Board.