The Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS) is urging Education Minister Bernard Drainville to help students who are “distressed and confused” about their temporary permits to study in English in Quebec.

Christopher Shannon of QAIS said that between 12 to 20 students have been denied permit renewals by bureaucrats misinterpreting the law, and dozens of other students have lost their right to English schooling because of Bill 96.

These children, argues Shannon, should be given exemptions on humanitarian grounds instead of being forced to admit themselves in French school near the end of high school. The education minister has the ability to make that happen by overruling the bureaucrats who have misapplied the law.

Andy Riga of the Gazette furthers upon this point by illustrating how the conventional protocol for obtaining an English education in Quebec is if one’s parent/s attended English school in Canada.

While Quebec had introduced a six-year exemption for foreign children to be educated in the province in English temporarily, the introduction of Bill 96 in 2022 put a three-year limit on said exemption with no possibility of extension.

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This has been the biggest “language overhaul” of English since Bill 101’s adoption in 1977, when French was made the official language of Government and the courts of Quebec.

The 12 to 20 students whose temporary permit renewals were denied without reaching the three-year limit have been subject to overzealous officials’ “personal whims,” argued Shannon.

“It’s not the right of a bureaucrat to do that. Their job is to apply the rule as it is written. And if they’re saying to someone after Year 2 that they can’t continue, that’s not an appropriate application of the rule.”

The Association’s request for government reconsideration regarding temporary permit renewal denials, however, does not stay limited to permits that have not hit the three-year mark.

It is also appealing to the education minister regarding Grade 10 and 11 students who have reached the three-year limit, and must – by Quebec law – switch to French schools.

“These students came to Quebec before Bill 96. They entered a five-year high school experience and they’re told maybe a year or two years from graduation, now you have to get out and you have to go somewhere else,” Shannon said.

“We don’t think it’s humane or considerate. We’re simply requesting a humanitarian exemption for those kids for the sake of their personal welfare and for educational continuity so they meet their best potential.”

The Gazette story quotes Shannon’s argument regarding Bill 96 having caused reduced enrolment of foreign students to some government grant-accepting private schools in 2023, as the “sought-after” people are looking to pursue a career elsewhere in Canada.

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Other Quebec lobbying groups have also spoken out in the past regarding the aforementioned loss of skilled foreign peoples due to Bill 96’s regressive policies.

Tech companies in Quebec, for example, had said last year that it is unreasonable to expect immigrants to learn French in just six months of arriving in the province.

“The requirement under Bill 96 to learn French within six months imposes an unrealistic deadline, as newcomers struggle with multiple challenges related to a life-changing move to a new home in Quebec,” a group of 37 tech companies had written in an open letter to Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

“As the founders, CEOs, and leaders behind Quebec’s fastest-growing companies, we are incredibly proud of the culture of our home province. We support the spirit of Quebec’s language law – protecting our distinct francophone identity – but implementation needs to be paused until the government fully establishes the necessary tools for French tutoring through Francisation Québec.”

“This ensures that the spirit of the law can be applied, concretely, successfully on the ground.”

Tech companies and other Quebec employers are worried that implementing language laws that are too onerous may deter highly-skilled immigrants from coming to the province entirely.

“If the best and brightest innovators, technologists, and business builders gravitate to Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Halifax instead of Montreal and Quebec City, it will do permanent damage to our province’s economic prosperity. This is already happening, but it’s not too late to change course.”

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