GNWT appeals NWT court decision on Francophone school admission

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The Government of NWT announced Friday that it’s appealing a court decision that found Education Minister Caroline Cochrane had failed to consider a Francophone child’s Charter rights to French schooling.

The court decision came after Cochrane rejected the child’s application to Ecole Allain St-Cyr because the child’s parents were immigrants, and non-rights holders, and thus couldn’t access minority language schooling rights guaranteed under Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

NWT Supreme Court Justice Paul Rouleau, finding Cochrane failed to consider all criteria in her rejection, recently ordered her to reconsider the decision.

In a Friday news release, Justice Minister and Attorney General Louis Sebert said the government’s appeal aimed to “achieve further clarification on the requirements of government when considering exceptions to French language school admissions criteria.”

Cochrane, meanwhile, said she would continue to reconsider her decision because the appeal was unlikely to conclude before the beginning of the school year. She added she would share the decision “shortly.”

In another July 26 release, The Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO) said it was “disappointed” with the appeal and “displeased with another territorial government decision to appeal a ruling in favour of Francophone schools.”

“The appeal sends the wrong message to all parents, including immigrant parents, who seriously want their children to learn the French language and develop a Francophone culture and identity by attending a CSFTNO school,” it stated.

In a July 27 social media post, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly wrote that the Government decided to appeal without consulting regular MLAs and that he planned to raise the issue when assembly sits next on Aug. 12.

“The time and money being spent on this appeal would be much better directed towards revising the Ministerial Directive on Francophone school admissions in a collaborative fashion with the Commission Scolaire,” he wrote, referencing the NWT government directive the child was found ineligible for.

Simon Cloutier, chair of CSFTNO, stated in the organization’s July 26 release  that the minister’s position was “harmful” to the organization’s schools and the broader “Franco-tenoise community.”

“It is difficult to reconcile the minister(‘s) restrictive approach to admission with the minister’s broader obligations under section 23 of the Charter, an in particular, minister Cochrane’s concurrent responsibilities as the minister responsible for official languages, French being one of them,” he said.