New Brunswick

Intervention from education minister sees barred Chinese student return to school

A Chinese student barred from attending school in Fredericton after his father’s work permit expired will be permitted to return to Nashwaaksis Middle School after intervention from the education minister.

Jerry Fu, 11, was not allowed to attend middle school after his father’s work permit expired

Inside a Fredericton art gallery, Jerry learns math, science and some English from his father, Lex Fu. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Two Chinese students barred from attending school in Fredericton after their father's work permit expired will be permitted to return to school after intervention from the education minister.

The family was ordered to leave Canada after failed attempts by Yougun Fu, who also goes by Lex, to extend his work permit, but he cancelled their flight home last month as the COVID-19 outbreak in China spread.

Federal government permitted the family to stay in the New Brunswick capital until the end of February, but his two children weren't allowed to go back to school. 

Jerry, 11, and Sophia, 5, have spent the past three weeks studying at CC Art Gallery, where his father volunteers after being told by Ottawa he could no longer work at the downtown Fredericton gallery.

Jerry returned to Grade 6 at Nashwaaksis Middle School on Friday, while is younger sister returned to kindergarten at Park Street. 

"I am very happy," Lex said.

Since January, Jerry Fu, 11, had not been allowed to return to Nashwaaksis Middle School because his father's work permit expired. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Education Minister Dominic Cardy called Lex on Thursday to say his son could return to school.

"Denying the child the right to access to education while living in the province is totally unacceptable," Cardy said.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says the student should not be denied access to education while living in New Brunswick. (CBC)

Following a story published by CBC News on Thursday morning, Cardy directed his deputy minister to speak with the Anglophone West School District to ensure Jerry's return. 

Cardy said there are some provincial and federal regulations to sort through, but in the meantime that shouldn't prevent a child from attending school.

"If this is a regulation or law that needs to be changed, we'll change it," he told CBC News. "If it's not, we'll make sure the confusion around the interpretation of the legislation is ironed out and this doesn't happen again."

During their phone conversation, the minister also apologized to Lex and his family. 

"He is going through an incredibly stressful period of time, being faced with deportation back to a country with extremely questionable practices and a country currently in the grip of a dangerous disease outbreak."

Judy Cole, a spokesperson for the Anglophone West School District, wouldn't discuss the Fu children because of privacy laws.

But she did say the district is required to adhere to immigration policies outlined in the federal government guidelines at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Meanwhile, Lex said he will continue to pursue a work permit extension.

He said he's always wanted his children to go to school in Canada. He wants them to receive a good education and also have the freedom to play when school's out.

With files from Elizabeth Fraser

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