British Columbia

French school board granted leave to appeal by Supreme Court over Charter complaint

B.C.'s French school board has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over its claim the provincial government has chronically underfunded French language schools. 

In longstanding dispute, B.C. French board claims chronic underfunding is breach of Charter rights

B.C.'s French school board has won leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over claims that chronic underfunding by the B.C. government constitutes a breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. (file photo) (Genevieve Proulx/Radio-Canada)

B.C.'s French school board has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over its claim the provincial government has chronically underfunded French language schools.

The motion is part of a long-running lawsuit brought by the Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique alleging the province infringed on the minority language education rights guaranteed in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom by insufficiently funding transportation, early childhood education and facilities.

The French board was partially successful in a 2016 B.C. Supreme Court decision and was awarded $6 million for school bus services, after the judge found the province failed to adequately fund the transportation program for a period of 10 years. 

In that case, the judge grappled with the question of what the Charter requires when there are barely enough students in a community to justify offering minority language education.

An appeal filed by the French board was dismissed. A cross appeal filed by the province was allowed, setting aside the damages to fund the transportation program.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in French. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Charter provides that Canadian citizens whose first language is French or English be allowed primary and secondary education in that language, even if they're in the minority.

French language schools are separate from French immersion programs.

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