Supreme Court says GNWT right to reject students French school applications

Three schools in NT had teachers who won awards, including École Boréale in Hay River. (Photo from Facebook.)
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The territorial Supreme Court sided with the government over parents in a decision about who can access minority language schools in the territory.

The case refers to several instances in 2019 when potential students were rejected because they did not meet the requirements laid out in Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Current Premier Caroline Cochrane, who was then the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment at the time, rejected several student applications for students who didn’t meet Section 23. 


Section 23 says students whose first language is French in an English speaking jurisdiction, went to a French primary school or has a sibling who did can access minority language schools.

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Outside of that, it is up to the government to decide if students who meet those requirements can go.

The parents appealed the decision, saying it was in the child’s best interest to go the minority language school. 

Currently, there are two such schools in the territory. École Boréal and École Allain St Cyr. 

Minority language schools are different from French immersion schools, which teach children in a second language. Minority language schools teach people in their first language.

But according to notes in the judgement, while the territorial government does have the power to grant access to minority education schools for people who didn’t qualify, this doesn’t mean they should.
Cochrane said allowing people who didn’t meet the charter requirements would create unpredictability in the number of students and the budgets of minority language schools.

The Supreme Court found in their decision that it could be found to be in every students “best interest” to go to minority language schools and if every student was allowed to attend then this could disrupt the cultural environment of the schools and drive up costs.

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