Quebec gvmt vows crackdown on ‘illegal’ schools, hopes to pool data to find unregistered kids
QUEBEC – Within months of winning a majority government this spring, Quebec’s Liberal government promised to close “illegal” private schools and to track down children who are not registered in state-run schools by pooling data from various ministries.
Now homeschooling leaders in the province are raising concerns that the government could clamp down on them as well.
"We will have a very rigorous approach so that one is able to go detect (children), and once they have been detected, we will arrange for these children to receive the necessary education."
Liberal Education Minister Yves Bolduc took a hard stance not only against the province’s unlicensed and under-the-radar Hasidic Jewish schools, but also against those that refuse to teach the state-mandated ethics and religious culture curriculum, which includes sympathetic presentations of atheism, homosexuality, and alternative family structures.
“We have to close them, they are illegal, it’s as simple as that,” he told reporters April 30 about unlicensed schools before entering a meeting at the National Assembly.
“What is important is that the students have to have a very good education, and they must acquire the knowledge that is necessary,” he said. “The bottom line is that a Quebec schoolchild must receive the courses prescribed in the law.”
The matter received media attention after a family left the Hassidic Tosh community in Boisbriand, blaming the government for subsidizing a private-run school that they said failed to provide their children with an adequate secular education.
The province’s home-schoolers are concerned by the direction the government is heading and what it could mean for them.
“Of course home-schoolers are wondering: ‘Is he going to do this to us too if we can’t come to an agreement with the school board, because the school board is not home-schooling friendly,’” said Carole Cardinal, a spokesperson for Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), to LifeSiteNews.
Cardinal said that some parents who home-school will often decide to register their children through the local school board only to find that the board is unwilling to work with them.
“The families are threatened with youth protection services simply for not following the same curriculum as a public school and doing a distance curriculum for home-schooling that comes from Alberta, for example,” she said.
Home-schooling remains legal in Quebec as long as the child’s instruction is “equivalent” to what is “taught or experienced” in school. Most school boards demand that parents receive their consent before home-schooling a child, though this is not required by law.
To make sure all school-aged children receive state-approved education, Bolduc said in May that the ministry would like an account of the number of children enrolled in unlicensed schools.
"We will have a very rigorous approach so that one is able to go detect (children), and once they have been detected, we will arrange for these children to receive the necessary education," he said to La Presse May 29.
Bolduc plans on achieving this by changing laws so he can pool data from various ministries, including Health, Social Services, and Education to zero in on children not registered in state-run schools.
Cardinal said the pooling of data banks does not bode well for families who are compelled to school their children at home “under the radar” because school boards refuse to work with them.
“Home-schooling families would be quite willing to register [their children] with the school board if the school boards would work with them,” she said. The problem is, she explained, that the “school board is more interested in having kids back in school than helping families succeed in their home-schooling.”
The HSLDA is warning Quebec home-schooling families that future data-pooling legislation initiated by the Ministry of Education could trigger a massive state-led investigation of all home-schooling families.
“If the Ministry of Education pushes it to the point of exchanging data banks, let us regard it as an opportunity to stand together. Consider the support that this would bring to the families that are presently in some way at the front lines for us all,” the organization stated on its blog.