North

Supreme Court won't hear N.W.T. francophone schools case

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided not to hear arguments in a dispute between the N.W.T. government and the territory's francophone school board. A national francophone rights group is 'profoundly disappointed.'

Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne 'profoundly disappointed'

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to revisit a dispute between the N.W.T. government and the territory`s francophone school board.

The board wants expansions to the francophone schools in Yellowknife and Hay River. It also wants 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 in January, the N.W.T. Court of Appeal overturned key parts of them. 

Those groups asked the Supreme Court to hear their case back in January. The Court declined Thursday.

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, a national group representing francophones outside of Quebec, says it's "profoundly disappointed" by the decision.

'It's totally absurd'

Not hearing the case, the fédération says in a news release, confirms the right of the territorial government to limit access to francophone schooling. It also means denying francophone immigrants the right to educate their child in French.

"It's totally absurd," says Sylviane Lanthier, FCFA president.

The FCFA says this won't be the last word on the issue.

It points to a Supreme Court ruling in B.C. that affirmed the importance of "equivalent infrastructure" for francophone and anglophone students.

It also points to a Yukon case, heard by the court last spring. In that case, the Court affirmed that the territory had the right to control admissions to francophone schools, but also pointed out that "nothing stops the board from arguing that Yukon's approach to admissions prevents the realization of Section 23's purpose."

Lanthier, however, points out that litigation has already stretched the limits of the N.W.T.`s francophone community.

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