Although Canada is primarily an English-speaking country with French as a secondary language, venture into the province of Québec and you’ll find that the predominant language is French. In fact, French is the sole provincial official language, meaning that services, legislation, business and commerce are all conducted first and foremost in French. It also means that education, through both elementary and secondary schooling, must be in French, with a just few exceptions. Because of this, enrolling your children in an English-speaking school (they do exist in Québec!) is not as easy as you may have hoped.
Bill 101 defines French as an official language in Québec. It was voted as a law in 1977 and encourages the use of French in public services. It states that education in Québec’s province-funded schools, both public and private must be given in French (a great majority of private schools are partly funded by the province). The study of English as a second language is encouraged, though. To attend an English-speaking school children must meet very specific criteria to apply.
There are three situations established by the Charter of the French Language that allow students to study in English:
1. Permanent certificate of eligibility
Parents can request a permanent certificate of eligibility for instruction in English for their children if they correspond to these conditions:
- A child has received the major part of their education in English in Canada AND at least one of their parents is a Canadian citizen
- A child’s siblings have received the major part of their education in English in Canada AND at least one of their parents is a Canadian citizen
- One of the child’s parents (who must be a Canadian citizen) received the major part of their elementary education in English in Canada
- One of the child’s parents attended school in Québec after the 26th August 1977, and could have been declared eligible for education in English at the time
2. Special authorization
Children can receive special authorization for English-speaking education if:
- A child has serious learning difficulties, whereby the use of English in their education could be of assistance to them and improve their learning
- It is decreed by the examining committee of the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports (Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur) that a child is in a serious family or humanitarian situation, and requires education in English
3. Temporary authorization
Finally, it is also possible to receive temporary authorization for dependent children of:
- A foreign national, or a Canadian citizen from another province (or a permanent resident) who is living in Québec temporarily to work or to study
- A foreign civil servant or representative of an international organization or another country, temporarily posted in Québec
- A member of the Canadian Armed Forces temporarily posted in Québec
If the child is a dependant of a foreign guardian, the guardian or the child must have a Certificat d’Acceptation du Québec (CAQ), a work permit or a study permit (or in specific cases an exemption of those permits). Otherwise, the child or the guardian must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or the child must accompany their guardian coming to work or study in Québec.
To obtain one of these exemptions, you will have to refer to the school board for the school in which you choose to enrol your children. The school board will give you the correct form and will supervise the whole process in order for you to get the exemption. When one of these exemptions is obtained, the registration process is the same for both English and French schools; you must contact the school board for registering your child at a school.
For more information, you might also enjoy reading our very helpful articles on Relocating With Children.
And keep in mind, our Online Relocation Guides are loaded with valuable information for families and children moving to Canada.
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