Anglophone parents and officials with Quebec's public and private English-language schools say the province has refused to consult them as it approaches the fall deadline for revamping a law barring certain students from going to public English-language schools.
Bill 104 closed a loophole in a Quebec language law that allowed parents without English education eligibility to gain access to the public English-language school system for their children by sending them to a private English school first.
In October, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law, calling it "excessive" and lacking nuance. The province was given a year to come up with a compromise.
The Supreme Court decision was considered a victory for English-language rights in Quebec.
Since 2002, the law has required children in the public system to attend French schools unless their parents meet certain criteria and can provide a "certificate of eligibility."
Now English school board officials are nervous about the Liberal government's response to the court decision. Their schools have steadily lost enrolment since Bill 104 went into effect.
'We're saying we're a community in Quebec. We have a right to be here. We have a right to grow,' — Costa Fokoeffs, parent
At a news conference Tuesday, anglophone parents and school officials argued allowing greater access to English schooling would in not impinge on the province's language legislation since students are graduating from the schools fully bilingual.
Victor Goldbloom, the former official languages commissioner, and Robert Libman, the former Equality Party leader, also attended the news conference.
Some members of the group suggested the government open English schools to the children of immigrants who were themselves educated in English.
"It's time to allow some choice in the schooling system, so that the English school system can survive," said Marcus Tabachnick, chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
"We're saying we're a community in Quebec," said Costa Fokoeffs, who has eight children. "We have a right to be here. We have a right to grow."
"On what grounds does this government deny us bringing immigrants and French Canadians into our schools? There is no grounds for that."
Provincial opposition parties and Quebec's top language advisory panel are recommending the province tighten its language legislation to restrict access to all private English schools. The Parti Québécois has suggested the province could use the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to do so.
Some nationalist groups, including the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, said the French language remains at risk in the province.
Before Bill 104, the number of students in French-language schools was constantly declining, said the group's president, Mario Bealieu.
"We don't just want [children to have] a minimal understanding of French, we want the integration of new immigrants," Bealieu said.
Education Minister Michele Courchesne said she met with English school board officials but was tight-lipped with reporters Tuesday about the approach the government will take toward the issue.
"I've met representatives from the English community, that's for sure, so I've listened to that," Courchesne said. "We'll see."