N.W.T. francophones apply to Supreme Court to hear school case

A Northwest Territories francophone parents' group and school board have set their sights on the country's highest court to settle a dispute with the territorial government.

Recent Yukon appeal to Supreme Court may affect case

Jacque Lamarche, president of the Association des parents ayants droit de Yellowknife, and Suzette Montreuil, president of the Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest, meet with reporters Jan. 12 after the N.W.T. Court of Appeal overturned key parts of a 2012 ruling in a dispute with the N.W.T. government. Lamarche says they plan to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case. (CBC)

A Northwest Territories francophone parents' group and school board have set their sights on the country's highest court to settle a dispute with the territorial government.

Jacques Lamarche, president of the francophone parents association in Yellowknife, says they plan to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to consider the case.

"We don't feel like we were asking for too much," Lamarche says. "We were asking for what is required, so when the Court of Appeal came back with a lot less than we were asking for in the first place, it's not meeting our needs."

The parents and board want expansions to the francophone schools in Yellowknife and Hay River. They also want admissions decisions to be made by the francophone school board instead of the government.

In 2012, an N.W.T. judge ordered the territorial government to pay for expansions to both schools.

The government appealed those decisions, and earlier this month the N.W.T. Court of Appeal overturned key parts of them. 

Yukon case to pave the way

Francophones in Yukon have raised similar concerns in Whitehorse. The Supreme Court of Canada heard their case this week.

Lawyer Guy Regimbald was in Ottawa to speak to the court on behalf of the N.W.T. government, one of several interveners in the case.

He says if the Yukon francophones are successful, it will take decision-making power away from the Department of Education.

"It is for the territories to determine education budget and that really should not be hijacked by the minority school board who decides to admit whoever they want and then turn around and ask government to foot the bill," he says.

"The government should be allowed to say, 'Wait a minute, there are some children here who ought to be in the English school' and that will allow the government to better manage its budget."

Right now, the N.W.T. government has final say over whom the territory's two francophone schools can admit.

The president of N.W.T.'s francophone school board says as a result, several applicants for francophone education have been denied.

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