Quebec language law 'a mess': opposition

The Quebec government has introduced legislation to toughen the province's language laws in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year.
Education Minister Michelle Courchese says Bill 103 will require parents to explain why their child should qualify for a English public school education. ((CBC))
The Quebec government has introduced legislation to toughen the province's language laws in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year.

Bill 103 sets out new rules for admission to English public schools in the province, using a complex system the government said Wednesday will protect French while maintaining individual rights.

Few will qualify

Under the proposed law, children in private English schools accumulate points to help them qualify for a public English education. However, there is no clear number of terms or years that would get a student into the public system.

The point system combines with more subjective criteria, in which parents would also have to explain to the ministry why their child should be admitted to the English public system.

Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said few will ever qualify.

"There is no length. There is a context, "said Courchesne.

"You have to look at the context of the family. Why would a family choose an anglophone school? Is there a specific reason why a father and a mother would make that decision?"

Historic mistake: PQ

The opposition Parti Québécois called the bill a historic mistake. PQ members wanted the government to continue banning all non-anglophones from enrolling in English public schools.

The PQ's education critic said the new legislation would only create problems.

"Those criteria will be a mess. It's clear. That's what we are so angry about. It is not helping the situation for anybody," said Pierre Curzi.

It is Quebec's latest legal attempt to legislate who can attend English-language schools in the province.

Latest attempt

Quebec's previous language education law, Bill 104, was adopted in 2002 under heavy criticism because it closed a prior legal loophole once used by those without English education eligibility who wanted English schooling for their children.

Bill 103 is Quebec's response to a Supreme Court ruling last year. ((CBC))
Under Bill 104, Quebecers could no longer earn eligibility for their children through private schools, which angered a small group of parents that challenged the law all the way to the Supreme Court.

The highest court ruled last fall that Bill 104 is unconstitutional and "excessive" in a decision hailed as a major victory for English rights in Quebec.

On Wednesday, Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre introduced her government's legal response to the Supreme Court ruling to great protest at the national assembly.

Bill 103 also proposes tougher penalties for a range of infractions against Quebec's French language charter, and amends Quebec's charter of human rights to include the notion of the "primacy" of the French language.