Quebec's undocumented children have right to education, activists say
Children without legal papers can attend public school but must pay up to $6,000 in fees
With many children heading back to school on Monday, some Montreal advocacy groups are calling on the Quebec government to make changes to ensure undocumented kids also get an education.
The Education Across Borders Collective says that despite assurances from the government that the children of illegal immigrants or those with visitor visas would be welcome in schools, there has not been movement on the file.
- New Quebec immigration policy aimed at attracting, retaining foreign talent
- Bring back deported teen, Montreal advocacy group demands
- New Quebec immigrants say driving test rules limit job opportunities
As it stands, children without legal papers can attend public schools in the province but must pay up to $6,000 in fees, a cost the collective says is prohibitive.
According to Quebec's Education Act, only certain types of immigrants as well as legal residents are entitled to a free public education.
"There's not very many wealthy countries that exclude kids based on their immigration status from going to primary or secondary school."
According to Baird, former education minister François Blais reassured the group last year that changes were coming.
A spokesperson for the current education minister Sébastien Proulx says while the government reminded school boards to welcome all students, the issue will be looked into in the coming weeks.
It's not known exactly how many children are affected by the situation.
An 2014 Quebec ombudsman's report included Education Ministry figures estimating the number at between 300 to 400, but Baird said the number could be much higher.
- A previous version of this story stated children awaiting refugee status do not have access to free public education. In fact, children awaiting refugee status have been able to do so since 2013.Sep 02, 2016 8:35 AM ET