11 Ukrainian children to attend English school in Quebec in language exception

Since March 2022, 11 Ukrainian children fleeing the war in their country have been granted language exceptions to study at English schools in Quebec, according to the education ministry.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) confirms it has welcomed five of those 11 students after passing a resolution in March stating it was prepared to accept Ukrainian students in its schools on humanitarian grounds.

"To date, there has been no change in the Quebec government's position regarding eligibility for English-language education," notes LBPSB spokesperson Darren Becker. "Like any refugee, Ukrainian refugees must therefore apply for eligibility under the applicable provisions of the Charter of the French Language."

Education ministry officials explain students whose parents hold temporary work permits are "eligible to receive instruction in English under the Regulation respecting the exemption from the application of the first paragraph of section 72 of the Charter of the French Language that may be granted to children temporarily residing in Quebec, RLRQ, c. C-11, r. 7."

Contrarily, those who arrive in Quebec under refugee status or who choose to obtain permanent residency must attend school in French.

"The French public school system has the expertise and resources necessary to ensure the psychological well-being of children from war-affected backgrounds and promote linguistic, academic and social integration," said the ministry. "Every year, these schools welcome thousands of children from humanitarian immigrant backgrounds, many of whom have experienced armed conflict."

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) has been pushing the provincial government over the last few months to consider giving exemptions to some young Ukrainians arriving in Quebec to allow them to attend English public schools.

"Some of these children undoubtedly have English as their second language and have already been through so much," stated QESBA President Dan Lamoureux.

The group insists its position has nothing to do with language politics in the province.

"We are not trying to politicize this in any way, shape, or form," added QESBA Executive Director Russell Copeman. "We are simply signalling to the government of Quebec, and to our fellow Quebecers, that English school boards are prepared to do their part on humanitarian grounds to try and help these refugees who have been through so much."

At the time, Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge insisted he was committed to integrating refugees into the French school system.

However, Premier François Legault mentioned he was open to the idea of making an exception.

"We may have an interim situation where we can help them this way," Legault said. "As you know, children of people coming to Quebec have to send children to French school, but in the interim period, of course, we will accommodate them."

According to the education ministry, those arriving in Quebec do so under the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (AVUCU), a "special temporary immigration program offered to Ukrainian nationals in the context of a humanitarian emergency."

Its main objective is to allow Ukrainian nationals to settle on Canadian soil quickly.

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