Commentary by Patrick B. Craine
QUEBEC, October 27, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Following their loss in the language war at the Supreme Court of Canada last week, the Quebec provincial government is considering a solution that would have them take even greater control over the province's unsubsidized private schools and possibly even homeschooling, and thus remove more of the rights of parents to determine the education of their children.
The imposition of the French language on everyone in Quebec has emerged as by far the most emphatic aspect of what is said to be a necessary struggle to preserve the province's endangered cultural heritage. But while those Quebecois with the language police mentality desperately seek to preserve French Quebec culture, most of them have undermined it by denying the large, historic role of the Catholic faith, the very bedrock of that culture which was one of the most religious in the world.
The province's bureaucrats have been progressively usurping the rights of parents, not only by implementing radical programs in public schools, but dictating the curriculum of private schools, and even, potentially, homeschooling. The province's dictatorial approach at preserving the French language through the schools has been accompanied by the same dictatorial approach in enforcing a foreign secularist agenda in schools.
Quebec's language laws, among many other things, establish French as the primary language of education. While English-educated Canadian citizens are so far still allowed to have their children schooled in public English schools, immigrants and francophones are not permitted to enrol their children in subsidized English schools.
A 'loophole' in the law had created a phenomenon of so-called “bridge schools” – unsubsidized private English schools where families could enrol one child for a minimum of one year and then obtain the requisite English 'eligibility certificate', allowing all their children to attend public English schools.
In 2002, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 104 to eliminate the loophole, but in doing so they excluded all such private instruction from consideration towards obtaining the eligibility certificate.
This reaction created absurd situations. Kevin Smith, for example, ended up in the French system for high school after attending an English private elementary school. After failing one year, he eventually dropped out, only obtaining his diploma later after taking an English adult education program.
Ruling that Bill 104 is unconstitutional, Justice Louis LeBel wrote that the bill, in effect, strikes private study from a student's educational history. He agrees with the government that their objective in fostering the French language is legitimate, but says the measure is “too excessive.” “The means chosen are not proportional to the objectives,” he wrote.
The government has been given one year to find a new solution, which they have promised to do. Shockingly, one proposal, from Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, would see Quebec's language laws imposed on all schools in the province, including unsubsidized private schools. Minister of Culture Christine St-Pierre has sought a legal opinion on the proposal, reports the National Post.
If such a plan were adopted, the imposition of the French language would be complete, with no student being allowed to enrol in any English school in the province, private or public, without first obtaining an 'eligibility certificate' from the government.
Such an infringement of educational freedom and parental rights is most certainly not unprecedented in Quebec. While Premier Jean Charest has called the province a “paradise for families,” parents who have been subject to the government's autocratic educational policies would surely not agree.
Parents with traditional values are, in effect, being forced to withdraw their children from any school, public or private, subsidized or not, or else allow their children to be educated in values with which they strongly disagree.
In the public schools, the government is pushing a radical homosexual agenda from the earliest ages, for example. In August, the Ministry of Education began training their primary school teachers in 'same-sex parenting inclusiveness', which will help teachers encourage their young students to be more “open” to families with same-sex 'parents'.
The government has a firm grip on private schools as well, denying parents the freedom to avoid the public school curriculum by enrolling their children in such schools. Quebec law dictates that even private unsubsidized schools must implement the established state-mandated curriculum.
In 2006, the Quebec Ministry of Education ordered private Christian schools to teach sex education (including homosexuality) and Darwinism, or else be shut down, despite the schools' faith-based objections. A community of Mennonites was forced to leave the province in the summer of 2007 because they would not succumb to the Ministry's demands. Ministry officials had visited the community the preceding November and ordered them to enrol their children in a government-approved school by the fall.
At the time, Ministry spokesman Francois Lefebvre told LifeSiteNews.com that the province has two requirements for approving private schools: “that the teachers are certified and that the provincial curriculum which is mandatory in all Quebec schools is followed.”
The province's most shocking infringement of parental rights has been the imposition of the province's new course in relativism, 'Ethics and Religious Culture' (ERC). The program, spanning grades 1 to 11, aims to cover the major world religions and pushes moral relativism. Homosexuality, for example, is presented as a normal life choice.
The program was mandated as of the 2008-2009 school year, and each of the 1,700 requests for exemption from parents have been denied by the Ministry of Education. At the end of August, a Drummondville judge ruled against a Catholic family who sought exemption. Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys' school, still awaits judgment on a court case over their request for exemption.
Perhaps the most chilling fact of all is that, within Quebec law, even homeschooling families could be forced to implement the ERC program. Parents could be forced into the absurd situation where they are teaching their kids at one moment that their own faith is the true one, and then in the next, that other faiths are on an equal footing with their own.
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